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Story Last modified at 10:13 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Healing in the field
Select group of JBER medics get expert badge

BY ARMY STAFF SGT. JASON EPPERSON

photo:Military

Pfc. Jason Woolard, 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), and Spc. Ronald Burton, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), cross the four-mile marker during a 12-mile road march May 20, part of the test for the Expert Field Medical Badge.
Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

3rd MEB Public Affairs

Some 123 soldiers began a grueling, six-day competition to earn one of the U.S. Army's most coveted skill badges.

By graduation day, only 20 remained to receive the Expert Field Medical Badge at a May 20 ceremony on Pershing Field at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

It was the first time in about 17 years that the base offered medics a chance at the badge created in 1965 as a Department of the Army special skill award to recognize exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical soldiers. The testing process remained largely unchanged until an update in 2008.

Army Capt. Daniel T. Coulter, commander of C Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), was the officer in charge of the course. He earned his badge at Fort Bragg in 2005.

"It's a truly rigorous event that tests the will, strength, physical and mental toughness of all Army medical personnel and it clearly distinguishes the best of the best in our medical department," Coulter said. "Statistically, less than 3 percent of our Army medical department possesses the Expert Field Medical Badge and the training we provided added to those numbers."

To earn the EFMB, candidates must pass 11 of 14 tasks for tactical combat casualty care; pass eight of 10 tasks for evacuation of the sick and wounded; pass 10 of 13 warrior skill tasks; pass four of five communication tasks; pass a comprehensive written examination; find three of four points during the land navigation course and complete a 12-mile foot march in three hours, according to Coulter.

The prerequisites before being accepted as an EFMB candidate include passing an Army Physical Fitness Test, qualifying with assigned weapon and having a current life-support certification.

The event "really brought together" the candidates of 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division and also incorporated the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Coulter said. The two don't normally train together.

"It was very well run; a lot of people put a lot of effort into making it happen," he said. "It was a real team effort."

Sgt. 1st Class Terry W. Stringfellow, the U.S. Army Alaska Surgeon noncommissioned officer in charge, was in charge of Combat Training Lane 2.

"Several months of planning went into it, with over 120 candidates that started," Stringfellow said. "There are people that came from Fort Lewis, Hawaii and Fairbanks, so it was a lot to put together logistically, getting the training areas laid on and the lanes set up and everything. I'm glad we were given the opportunity to run one. "

It takes a large team to run the EFMB testing, according to the event's NCOIC.

"As far as the support package we have about 120 people that are actively supporting," said Sgt 1st Class Matthew R. Gritta, Headquarters, 4-25th ABCT, Surgeon NCOIC and EFMB NCOIC.

"This is lane support and life support that has to happen out here in the FOB to continue operations," Gritta said. "Everything from chow to changing out the lanes, to getting supplies, to running the (tactical operations center) ... doing coordination as well as doing our (transportation) and even our communication support."

U.S. Army Alaska Commanding General Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo was on hand to congratulate and pin the EFMB on the candidates during the ceremony on Pershing Field.

One of the freshly pinned Soldiers, Pfc. Jason Woolard, a medic with 84th Engineer Support Company (Airborne), 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), said he was glad the course was over.

"It was not quite as bad as I thought it would be, but it was difficult," Woodard said. "The lanes were challenging and mentally exhausting. I can handle the physical - you know that's all heart - but the mental was definitely tough. CTL One, the medical lane, stood out from the others because you had to be so precise and you had to be on your game 100 percent. There's no room for error."

If anyone is thinking of giving the course a run, Woolard offered this advice: "Forget everything you know. You have to start training from scratch and go by the book. Don't give up. It's all heart and motivation and determination."



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.