More than 165 candidates competed for the notoriously difficult Expert Field Medical Badge held here Jan. 28 to Feb. 1. At the conclusion of the course, 27 Soldiers earned the highly coveted EFMB. That translates to a completion rate of 16 percent.
The EFMB was established June 1965 as a Department of the Army special skill award for recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel. It is only awarded to Soldiers who successfully complete combat tactical lane casualty-care tasks, day and night land navigation, a written test and a 12-mile timed road march.
Sgt. 1st Class Charity Franco, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the EFMB course, said historically, only 17 percent of candidates earn the prestigious peacetime badge.
In its third year hosting the competition, this was the first year Fort Bliss opened the course to medical Soldiers Army wide. Soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Fort Hood, Texas, came to the El Paso area for the opportunity to earn the EFMB.
Sgt. Donald Tharp, radiologic technologist, 47th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was eager to put his medical skills to the ultimate test in an effort to earn the EFMB.
Tharp, originally from St. Petersburg, Fla., trained for the EFMB twice, but never competed. As a first time candidate, Tharp was confident he had the necessary training and medical skills to complete the course and was convinced he would graduate with the EFMB.
He said attention to detail is essential to staying in the competition. Missing one task within a skill set results in elimination.
“Pay attention, take notes and do exactly what the graders tell you to do,” said Tharp. “When you go through the standardized training, it is exactly what you go through during test week. And make sure you’re familiar with day and night land navigation.”
Continuously rehearsing with the other candidates was critical to ensuring Tharp was a first time “go” on each lane.
“You must remember the task step-by-step or you fail out,” said Tharp. “I didn’t want to fail.”
Tharp said he approached each task and followed the instructors’ directions.
Sgt. Nicholas Powell, a laboratory technician, also from 47th BSB, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, did not have as much training as Tharp. Powell attended the pre-course training for the EFMB, which consisted of a one week pre-training course.
“There’s an overwhelming amount of information, but if you focus on the task, you will make it,” said Powell.
Powell credited his success to repetition, also known as “muscle memory” and it reminded him of the task at hand.
“I hope I don’t screw up,” said Powell, as he was being evaluated. “It’s a big deal in the medical field to have the Expert Field Medical Badge. Only a small percentage has the Expert Field Medical Badge and you want to be a part of the best.”
Powell and Tharp completed 15 medical assessments, 13 Warrior Tasks, 5 radio tasks, 13 medical evacuation tasks, day and night land navigation, a 60 question written test and the12-mile timed road march, giving them the right to proudly wear the EFMB.
“The Soldiers put their all into it,” said Franco. “Their units should be very proud of them because it’s very difficult to earn.”