An EFMB candidate has just nine seconds to properly put on his mask and get a seal during a training lane exercise. Photo by Ellen Crown
About 180 service members stepped into formation on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst March 23, accepting the challenge to compete for the Expert Field Medical Badge, one of the most coveted achievements in military medicine.
As the rain poured down on the range one week later, only about half the competitors remained in the running to earn the EFMB. By the end, statistically, about 20 percent of those who start will cross finish line.
“This badge is not called ‘the really good field medical badge.’ It’s called the Expert Field Medical Badge,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Correll, assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Correll is one of three lead evaluators for three combat training lanes. Candidates, who include Army, Navy and National Guard members, are graded on his lane for their ability to triage and provide immediate combat care. Candidates must also use a radio to call in casualties and load patients into vehicles.
Staff Sgt. Justin Vanhoy, a candidate who is assigned to the 6th Medical Logistics and Management Center, said this is his third time trying for the badge. Vanhoy has 15 years of service in the Army but all of it has centered on medical supply, which means he had to prepare significantly for the combat training lanes. For months, he has been studying and working with others within the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command to learn more about medical care in a combat environment.
“I may not ever use this in a combat environment, but understanding what our combat medics go through is important for me in my logistics mission,” explained Vanhoy.
Candidates must pass a written test, provide combat medical care in a chem-bio environment, perform day and night land navigation, and have to complete a 12-mile road march.
USAMRMC, in collaboration with the Public Health Command, the Northern Regional Medical Command, and the Maryland Army National Guard, sponsored the EFMB, which took 7 months to plan.
“The training enhances our ability on the battlefield,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commanding general of USAMRMC and Fort Detrick.
Navigating to the Badge
USAMRMC Public affairs
U.S. Army Support Activity-Fort Dix
"File in and no one talk to anyone," booms the cadre.
About 50 Soldiers huddle into a tent deep into the ranges at Joint Base McGuire Dix-Lakehurst, as the canvas walls shudder from unrelenting winds. The sounds of rhythmic blasts from other sites echo in the background, but no one takes notice. Every Soldier stays laser-focused on the instructions ahead for their land navigation portion of the Expert Field Medical Badge.
The EFMB is one of the most coveted badges in military medicine. Candidates must pass a written test, a series of training lanes where they are tested on combat care and other military survival skills, perform day and night land navigation, and complete a 12-mile road march.
Most who have gone through it will say land navigation is the toughest part. One missed point is the end of the exercise and a ticket home.
Master Sgt. John Castillo, a lane leader from the U.S. Army Public Health Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., said it was the land navigation that knocked him out of the ranks the first time he tried to get the badge.
"You know I was a first sergeant-- a leader of Soldiers -- when it happened. I did not want to talk to anybody. But when I returned to my unit, the Sergeant Major came to me, offered tips and said the next time you go, you’ll get it. He really helped me out," said Castillo In 2012, Castillo achieved his goal at Joint Base McGuire Dix-Lakehurst, the first time the base ever held an EFMB competition.
Sgt. 1st Class Royregus Cosby, a member of the cadre who is regularly assigned to the 6th Medical Logistics and Management Center, added that the achievement is more than a "chest mount."
Cosby said, "If you see a medic coming up to you in combat and they have that badge, you know that you are getting the best."