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NEWS | May 26, 2021

Army Reserve Medical Command hosts Expert Field Medical Badge testing event

By Sgt. 1st Class Michele Uitermarkt Army Reserve Medical Command

Expert Field Medical Badge events are the utmost test of professional competence and physical endurance of the Soldier medic. The test comprises 144 hours of continuous operational events that test the mental and physical stamina as well as tactical and technical skills of medical Soldiers. The badge is considered a “portrait of excellence” in Army medicine and is the most sought-after peacetime award in the Army medical community.

One of seven opportunities offered Armywide in 2021, this is the first time the Army Reserve has hosted an EFMB event.

“This is the pinnacle of demonstrated training to standard set for Army medicine. And, therefore, it means a lot.” said Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson, commanding general of the Army Reserve Medical Command. “It means that you’ve taken the time to train, you’ve taken the time to go to the field and demonstrate those competencies.” Woodson continued, “I’ve had several deployments and the skills I learned during the Expert Field Medical training really gave me the confidence to know that I could perform well during the deployments.”

To qualify, volunteers must be trained in a medical military occupational specialty or assigned to a medical branch. Candidates must be recommended by their commander, qualify “expert” on their assigned weapon, have a current CPR certification, complete a 12-mile road march within 3 hours, and complete a written test.

Of the more than 100 Soldiers that attempted the written examination, 21 Soldiers from the Army Reserve, 15 from the active component, and three from the National Guard, a total of 39 gained entrance to the two-week event.

Housed at a dedicated EFMB field testing site, the event was supported by a 159 member staff, required to conduct the testing lanes and evaluate the competitors.

“It was a lot of work to set up the qualification area. Controls have to be put into place to ensure the integrity of the testing sites,” said Capt. Gary A. Parlett, patient administration officer assigned to the Army Reserve’s 7451st Medical Operations Readiness Unit, who served as an opposing force role-player for one of three combat testing lanes or CTL.

“The integrity of the test is very important because the badge is so challenging to achieve,” explained Parlett, a DuPont, Washington, native. Each CTL is meticulously planned with live actors wearing moulage and makeup to simulate injuries and mannequins with injuries of various degrees in order to test the skills of the Soldiers.

The first week of the event, known as standardization week, Soldiers observe “what right looks like” before they are tested on their technical and tactical proficiencies in week two. Testing events include a physical fitness test, day and night land navigation, tactical combat casualty care, medical and casualty evacuation, common warrior skills tasks, and on the final day, a 12-mile road march.

The overall success rate for EFMB is less than twenty percent, elevating it to one of the most difficult and prestigious badges to attain in the Army.

“The badge protects itself because the standards are so high,” said Maj. Anthony Harding, a physician’s assistant with the Army Reserve’s 7415th Tactical Medical Center who served as a course evaluator. “We want to see candidates succeed but we have to remain objective because there are statistically more failures than successes,” said Harding, a Houston, Texas native. “The good thing is they usually come back.”

Capt. Wendy L. Evans, a veterinary field service officer with Public Health Activity, Fort Hood, Texas, is on her second attempt to earn the EFMB at Fort McCoy. “I want it because I want to lead by example. It’s doable, but you need to be ready to accept a challenge.”

“It’s about setting an example for my Soldiers. In my unit, we always talked about doing it, so when the opportunity presented itself, I knew it was up to me to lead the way,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua W. Beal, a combat medic who serves as the first sergeant for the Army Reserve’s 7456th Medical Operations Readiness Unit.

“It’s challenging in every way. When you get back to your tent, your buddy might not be there. These are outstanding Soldiers to begin with,” said the Pleasant Hill, Iowa business owner. “It takes a lot to get here and it takes a lot more to complete the course.”