The Expert Field Medical Badge, or E.F.M.B., was created in 1965 as a special skill award for the recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by eligible medical personnel. All U.S. Army medical personnel, officers and enlisted, and personnel serving in comparable positions are eligible for testing. Prerequisites for the test include the Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualification and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation certification. The Badge is considered one of the U.S. Army’s most difficult and prestigious skill badges to earn. Historically, over the 50 years it has been available, there has been a very low percentage of success rate. According to the U.S. Army medical detachment website, http://www.ameddregiment.ameddarmy.mil, it averages a pass rate of between 15% – 17% annually.
The testing, done over the course of three consecutive days, is done in a simulated combat environment. The test includes day and night land navigation courses using a military grade compass and aerial map, a forced 12 mile road test in under 3 hours wearing full combat gear and carrying a 50lb rucksack (backpack), a litter obstacle course done in four man teams but graded individually, a 100 question test with a 75% correct or better score and “lane testing”.
Lane testing is set up in simulated combat situations including smoke, simulated explosions and gunfire with screaming simulated wounded. The wounded were live soldiers who volunteered to help with the testing. The wounded came in two categories: helpful and distressed. Distressed wounded would scream, hit, pull and trip the personnel testing. Above everything else, testers could not cause further injury to the wounded. We were to protect their lives at all costs, by any means necessary, up to and including our own life.
There are five lanes in the E.F.M.B. test. Each lane is graded by a proctor. Each proctor was a soldier who had previously earned the E.F.M.B.. The Badge was considered elite and proctors were not interested in growing the ranks of awarded personnel. They made the lanes as difficult as possible. The lanes included a Communications Lane: competency with field radio techniques including the preparation and transmission of a MEDEVAC request, a Survival Lane: demonstration of survival skills in an NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) environment and combat situations using a M16 series rifle, the Emergency Medical Treatment Lane: demonstrate treatment and triage skills of various wounds similar to those in a combat situation, the Evacuation Lane: demonstrate Evacuation techniques utilizing vehicles and manual carries and the C.P.R. Lane: demonstrate proficiency in C.P.R. in a combat situation using the one-person method.
It was early July at Ft. Stewart Georgia. The temperatures ranged between realy hot and humid to “are you fucking kidding me? its goddamned hot!” We slept outside under the stars in foxholes we had dug once we signed in to testing area. We ate M.R.E.s, used the field method of using the restroom (bury and cover), we were kept awake through simulated invasions and explosions within our perimeter and we had no access to a shower.
This was now more an expected way of life than an inconvenience.
The Medic platoon of H.H.C. 3rd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division, 1st Batallion of the 18th Regiment had roughly 40 combat medics. Half of those Medics had been awarded the Combat Medic Badge which out ranked the E.F.M.B.. Our C.M.B. Medics didn’t have to take the test. Twenty of us boarded the bus for the 2hr ride to Ft. Stewart from Ft. Benning. C.J., my roommate, and I were the two highest ranking soldiers on the bus. C.J. spent the entire two hours explaining, in great detail, to the everyone in attendance how Americans just loved the word “expert”. He was pointing out the “potato medics” on the bus who, regardless if they became an “expert” or not, he would still consider them a potato.
I was grateful for the comical distraction. Unlike most of the passengers on that bus, I knew first hand what we were about to endure.