GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Nerves and excitement ripple through the air here this week as multinational medical Soldiers from across Europe prepare to pass the tests for the prestigious Expert Field Medical Badge. Those who earn the badge will have completed a 12-mile ruck march, a written test, day and night land navigation, and three combat testing lanes that include basic combat scenarios as well as medical combat operations.
Soldiers have just five days to familiarize themselves with what they will face on Sunday, when the rigorous 120-hour testing phase begins. With only an average 15-20 percent success rate there is reason to be nervous, but the candidates are training and practicing hard to improve those statistics.
Sgt. Andrea Gray, a 212th Combat Support Hospital medic from Boston, Massachusetts, says she is most worried about the land navigation portion of the test, but she and some of her fellow Soldiers have practiced on the Landstuhl, Germany course, both day and night. Land navigation is the same section that eliminated Spc. Travaughn Jacobs, an 8th Medical Logistics Company optical laboratory specialist from Wichita, Kansas, last year. Jacobs is back for his second attempt and feels confident.
“We’ve been doing ruck marches and studying the test material at my home-station in Miseau, and out here me and some others from the group have gotten together to study everything,” Jacobs said.
The cadre is also taking time to ensure the candidates prepare and have the best resources.
“We have mandatory study hall scheduled until 2000 every day, but often the instructors stay after, as late as 2300. They bring training aids and that is really helpful for the Soldiers,” explained 1st Lt. William Brant, an officer from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit that is hosting the event this year.
“It’s a lot of information. A whole, whole lot,” Gray said of the instruction they receive during this standardization phase.
Due to potential language barriers, different military methods, and just being new to a group, Gray said she tries to include the multi-national Soldiers in her platoon as much as possible.
“We have some Estonian Soldiers so whatever information we have, we offer to them. Sometimes they don’t ask questions but you know someone else is thinking the same thing, so we bring it up” Gray said.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickels, cadre with 2nd Cavalry Regiment who earned his EFMB 17 years ago as a Private 1st Class, said that the process of EFMB has changed over the years.
“It used to be that we would do all the evacuation tasks in one lane, our medical tasks in one lane, our warrior tasks in one lane. Now we’re spreading the missions out to make it more of a combat scenario,” Stickels said.
The candidates start in one lane with a combat event where they have to react to an enemy situation, such as a rocket attack or an enemy firing on them. The candidates have to take cover and return fire, and perhaps react to a chemical condition or operate a radio to make a detailed report of the situation. Then they make their way through a series of obstacles, after which they may come upon a vehicle with a casualty. They treat the casualty and evacuate, the whole time being timed and tested on proficiency.
Soldiers who pass all the events and manage to cross the finish line after the 12-mile ruck march in time, will receive their coveted EFMB shortly afterwards during a ceremony here, on Sep. 21.