Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
More than 800 trauma cases went through the Forward Surgical Team at Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, from November 2009-November 2010.
Many times, the first person to greet those trauma patients off the helicopter was Staff Sgt. Robert Mullins, who was in charge of
medical evacuations there while deployed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Mullins, treatment platoon sergeant, Company C, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, is one of the many Expert Field Medical Badge recipients who has come together to assist with 4th Infantry Division’s EFMB test July 30-Aug. 24 at the Wilderness Road Training Complex, which includes setup, site validation, standardization, and the test week.
The event is attracting Soldiers from around the world.
“We have 260 projected candidates,” said Master Sgt. Daryl Forsythe, noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of medical plans and operations, 4th Inf. Div., and the EFMB. “We have candidates from as far away as Alaska; Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and New Hampshire.”
The EFMB was established in 1965 as a special skill award to recognize “exceptional competence and outstanding performance” by medical personnel, according to U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Pamphlet 350-10. The pamphlet strictly outlines the requirements for the testing of Soldiers for the EFMB.
For many Soldiers, the “Ivy” Division’s test is a rare opportunity to earn the EFMB, which requires a
certain number of EFMB recipients to hold key positions among the test evaluators.
“With the operations tempo across the Army being so fast, it’s very difficult to put (an EFMB test) on,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Jarvis, 4th Inf. Div. surgeon. “Most Soldiers have never been given the opportunity to attend one. We have people coming from all over the world so that we can have enough EFMB recipients to hold the event.
“We have many more Soldiers with a Combat Medical Badge than an EFMB,” said Jarvis.
A CMB is awarded to medics and officers in medical positions who perform their duties while engaged by the enemy.
The last time 4th Inf. Div. held an EFMB test was at Fort Hood, Texas, said Forsythe.
“The command group requested this over a year ago; it was being worked while we were still deployed,” he said.
While the EFMB test is a month-long event, much of that is preparation, with the final week dedicated to testing.
The first week is site set up, which involves preparing all the test sites: the three common task lanes; the day and night land navigation courses; the written test; and the 12-mile road march course, as well as emplacing water sources and latrines throughout the testing area.
The second week is site validation, which involves a representative from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the home of the Army’s medical training.
“The evaluators will take the
complete test and be graded by their fellow evaluators,” said Forsythe. “The representative doing the validation ensures that the evaluators grade each Soldier the same, and that the testing meets all requirements.”
The common task lanes will test a total of 40 tasks through a simulated live-fire event that will include artillery simulators and gas canisters, said Forsythe.
Week three is EFMB standardization and, from this point forward, all testers will remain at the training area.
During the week, the evaluators conducting the test will demonstrate the proper way to complete every task required to pass the test, said Forsythe. At the completion of the week, the common task lanes and the land navigation course will be reset to reduce the possibility of cheating, which can result in elimination from the test.
On the first day of testing, Aug. 19, candidates will take a written test and conduct the night land navigation course. Days two through four focus on the CTLs and the day land navigation course. The testing will culminate Aug. 24 with the 12-mile road march ending at the EFMB award ceremony site at Founders Field, followed by the ceremony at 10 a.m.
The 12-mile road march is the hardest part, coming at the end of the two weeks of testing, said Mullins.
“You’re so tired; it’s a true test of heart,” he said.
The test itself can prove to be challenging to Soldiers, many of whom have to change the way they’ve been doing certain treatment steps for years, due to changes in Army medical treatment doctrine.
The grueling regimen can result in a high rate of attrition among the candidates, due to exacting specifications and fatigue, said Forsythe.
“The (U.S. Army Medical Department) average pass rate for the EFMB is 17 percent.”
Those high standards result in months of training for many Soldiers to prepare for the EFMB.
“I spent 3.5 months, an average of five hours each day, doing drills to prepare for the EFMB,” said Mullins. “Perfection was the only thing that mattered.”
The rewards for completing the test and earning the EFMB can be great.
“Whenever a junior medic sees a senior medic with an EFMB, they know that’s something they have to strive after,” said Mullins. “It shows ‘this guy knows what he’s doing … I want to learn everything he knows.’”