During the summer of 1990, Germany was on fire with enthusiasm over the fall of the Berlin Wall and winning the World Cup. Soccer, called football everywhere else in the world, is the most popular sport in Europe. The German flag was everywhere now; on cars, store windows, hotels, along the Rhine river and anywhere else we went. Germans were even wearing their flag as clothes. It was if they had nothing to be proud of for the 45 years after W.W.I.I., then over a few month period, they had global bragging rights. To say it was an exciting time to be living in Germany would be a gross understatement. American soldiers were a constant reminder to them of the past. For 45 years American soldiers would come to their country on a two year deployment, drink their beer and fuck their women. I related it to me having to see Elle with her new boyfriend everywhere I went after she left me. However, Germany now had a new love in its life. Germans were now starting to actually be cordial to Americans.
SSG Hunt had picked me for M.P.T. (Medical Proficiency Training) starting in June. Medics stationed in field units, if picked by their supervisors, would study medical treatment in a hospital setting for a three month T.D.Y. (Temporary Duty). My M.P.T would be done at Heidelberg Army Hospital. My friends in the barracks were excited for me. Supposedly, M.P.T. was like college without studying. I would be working directly under nurses and learn how to provide treatment to patients in the hospital. The thought of college brought back feelings of my own inadequate past. I did not share any excitement. At one point I tried to approach SSG Hunt to give my slot to another medic. That suggestion did not go as I hoped it would.
I knew SSG Hunt appreciated me in a professional manner. I was a good soldier. I did what I was told and never asked for anything. I didn’t go to sick call to avoid work, never requested leave to go home and was in great physical shape. I worked hard and never reported for duty smelling like alcohol. I was reliable. I mentored new soldiers without being asked and served as a good example for them. She wanted me to learn Medic stuff however. Building the hospital several times during the week deprived us from learning how to be actual Combat Medics. We performed no treatment and saw no wounded. She would question us on Medic tasks and we would answer her, but there was no application of our knowledge. That became painfully obvious when the Medics of 12th Evac. went to the E.F.M.B. test after Reforger.
E.F.M.B. (Expert Field Medical Badge) was a three day test. Every soldier in the United States Army who had a medical identifier was eligible to take the test. Officers and enlisted. Surgeons, Nurses, Medics and everything in between. The test itself was purposefully designed to be extremely difficult. There was a low percentage of soldiers who took the test and a much smaller percentage of soldiers who were actually awarded the badge. The badge was worn on soldiers uniforms permanently throughout their careers. The only award considered higher than an E.F.M.B. was the C.M.B. (Combat Medical Badge). Combat always out ranked everything. The E.F.M.B. identified professionalism, courage, knowledge and perseverance. No soldiers in 12th Evacuation Hospital wore the E.F.M.B.. No officer, N.C.O. or enlisted soldier. SSG Hunt chose four soldiers from the platoon to represent 12th Evac. and bring home glory. My roommate Dee Cee and I were two of the four selected to test.
During the three day test we would live outside under war like conditions. We would eat M.R.E.’s, sleep on the ground in tents and be expected to observe noise and light discipline as to not alert the enemy. The written test itself consisted of 100 multiple-choice questions in general military and medical knowledge, preventive medicine, and map reading. A score of 75% or higher is required. The written test would be after all other testing had been passed, on day three. If we passed the written test we would have to finish a 12 mile forced road march, within three hours of starting it, while carrying a standard load of fighting gear, a M16 rifle and 75lb rucksack.
The last day of testing didn’t worry me at all. SSG Hunt tested us verbally all the damn time. We ran an average of 3 – 5 miles a day and I was in the best physical condition of my life. What worried me most was the two full days of tactical testing that we would have to pass in order to even make it to day three.
The two days of testing before the written test would be on combat survival skills relating to Combat Medicine. The grading would be done in “lane type grading system”. We would run, full speed, down an actual man made ‘lane’, or trail, into a combat situation and be watched closely by proctors. The lanes would be experienced as if we were being shot at by enemy combatants while being graded. There was an EMT lane, an evacuation lane, a survival lane, a communications lane, a land navigation lane (both night and day) and a warrior skills lane. The lanes covered every known combat scenario known to the U.S. Army and some scenarios based on future expectations of combat. In order to qualify for E.F.M.B. soldiers had to qualify with a M16 rifle and pass the Physical Fitness test within the previous six months. 12th Evac. qualified every 4 months with weapons and physical fitness. We were hand picked by our squad leaders and eligible according to Army standards.
The only soldiers eligible to be E.F.M.B. proctors were soldiers who were actually awarded the E.F.M.B.. These soldiers, the best of the best, didn’t want to award badges to anyone. They loved keeping their ranks small. It gave them more prestige. Also, it is the only time during military service where a private can scream at a Colonel. E.F.M.B. out ranked everyone at the test. Our test site was in Stuttgart, Germany. The test would be hosted by the 3rd Infantry Division. Our entire company knew we were heading to the test and wished us well. They hoped for glory for our Hospital through the performance of the four of us. The C.O. wished us well at the morning formation before we left. SSG Hunt drove us to the site in the back of a 5 ton truck.
The four of us failed the very first task of “Evacuating Wounded”. We ran down our lane, carrying a litter to scoop up our wounded with, and accidentally decapitated the ‘dummy’ who we were supposed to load into a Blackhawk helicopter. SSG Hunt had to turn right around and retrieve us.
There was no fucking way SSG Hunt was going to let me get out of M.P.T. training. I gave her 50 pushups, per her demand, for even asking her.