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The top 24 percent

Soldiers vie and some receive the coveted EMFB

A soldier provides medical attention to a simulated casualty during testing for the Expert Medical Field Badge (EMFB). Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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A soldier tossed a smoke grenade into a shallow hole. There was a pop, a fizz, and then whitish grey smoke.

A moment later, another soldier moving carefully down a trail, detected the noise and smoke. Within seconds dense, yellow smoke engulfed him.

The soldier reacted to the simulated chemical attack.  Not only did failure mean burning lungs and teary eyes, it also meant that his chance of earning the Expert Medical Field Badge, or EMFB, had ended.

The EMFB candidate quickly donned his gas mask, cleaned his hands of the simulated chemical agent, washed his face, and cleared his mask of any contaminants.

A grader stood nearby, intently watching.

The soldier moved on; he had successfully completed the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) part of the testing.

"Every test must be performed to standard; there is no room for any error," SFC Randy Mclcahy, HHC, 62nd Medical Brigade, quietly said to me.

"The EMFB is the most prestigious peacetime badge that a medical soldier can achieve."

The pass rate in fiscal year 2013 was 19 percent.

The 193 soldiers assigned to the 62nd Medical Brigade - plus a few Air Force medics - volunteered to test for the badge.

Prior to the five-day test period, candidates for the EMFB underwent five days of standardization, or an opportunity to see all of the tasks they would be tested on performed to standard.

This approach worked; 24.3 percent of the candidates earned their EMFB, the highest success rate ever.

Both Spc. Erik Sanchez and Sgt. Eric Valencia, 56th Multi-Functional Medical Battalion, agreed that the standardization period was well worth the effort.

"Seeing how certain tasks are done to standard was a big plus for us," said Valencia.

Sanchez agreed.  "Especially when it comes to day and night land navigation; that's one of the toughest challenges anyone faces out here."

Both soldiers pointed out that attention to detail, especially minor details, was crucial to earning the EMFB.

"Large concepts are easy to recall," said Sanchez.  "It's after you get tired and stressed that you will mess up on the minor details and fail."

The 62nd Medical Brigade, 47th Combat Support Hospital, 56th Multi-Functional Medical Battalion; the 673rd Dental Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, 84th Civil Affair Battalion; 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, 6250th Army Hospital; and the 9th Finance, supported the event.

The five days of testing were scenario driven.  On each of the three Combat Testing Lanes (CTLs), the candidate received an operations order on what to react to.

"Each reaction they make leads to another reaction," Mulcahy pointed out.  

The testing began with a written test, is complicated by day and night land navigation, and then runs the gauntlet of Tactical Combat Casualty Care Tasks, Medical and Casualty Evacuation Tasks, and Warrior Skills Tasks.

The test ends with a 12-mile ruck march that must be completed in three hours.

"It's a matter of pride for anyone who is in the medical field to earn and wear the badge," Mulcahy said.

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