Story and photo by Sgt. Adam C. Keith
U.S. Army Central Public Affairs Office
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — Weary Soldiers lined the road in the pre-dawn hours of what promised to be another sweltering day in Kuwait. After enduring a variety of grueling mental and physical tasks, 22 servicemembers were all that remained of the 142 that began the competition five days prior. Looming ahead of them, and their goal, was a daunting 12-mile road-march course Oct. 16.
Participants needed to complete the course donning a ruck sack and gear, before a prominently displayed clock, set at three hours counted down to zero; all for the honor of earning the Expert Field Medical Badge.
The EFMB is a symbol of Soldier proficiency and medical skill authorized only to Army medical personnel who successfully complete the rigorous testing.
The testing, held on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 11-16, included three separate lanes, involving a mix of tactical combat casualty care, medical and casualty evacuation and warrior skills.
“Everyone in the Army knows the EFMB,” said Spc. Corey Crisostomo, health care specialist, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, as he prepared for the road march. “It’s one of the most prestigious badges that you can earn as a medic. It definitely shows people that you are serious about the military, and that you’re here to do some good.”
2nd Lt. Jilber A. Jerman, medical platoon leader, 1st ABCT, said she gained a lot from participating in the competition.
“It’s been mentally and physically taxing,” Jerman said. “I learned a lot from the medics in my platoon before the competition, and I just feel lucky to be here at the end. I give a lot of credit to those guys, and the training that I received leading up to the event.”
Capt. Sara Rodriguez, brigade medical planner and operations officer in charge of the event, 1st ABCT, said it is the first time since 1999 that the competition has been held in Kuwait.
“Soldiers came from Bahrain, Afghanistan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United States to participate in this event,” she said.
Because the testing isn’t held often and the Army’s pass rate was around 17 percent in 2012, earning the badge was a huge accomplishment for Army medical personnel, Rodriguez said.
“The most challenging part has been the constant get up and go,” said Crisostomo. “You get a lot of down time, but during that time you always have to be preparing for the next event, because you are always rolling into another test or another lane that could eliminate you.”
Crisostomo said he used his previous EFMB experience as motivation to push himself through this round of testing.
“The medical lane tripped me up the first time I did EFMB testing,” he said. “I got a 100-percent go on that lane this go around, so I definitely came back with a vengeance.”
Crisostomo and Jerman, along with all but one of the Soldiers who survived the testing up until the road march, managed to cross the finish line in time, claiming their badges.
“I was pretty beat up toward the end, so just the fact that it was all over was really exhilarating,” said Crisostomo. “It feels great to have finished and come away with the badge.
“There are few times when you come to the finish line and there are 50 people cheering you on,” he said.
Jerman said he felt amazing after finishing the event, and he was proud of everyone who participated and received the training.
“I am surprised and pleased with how well the training and testing was put together, especially under these conditions,” said Jerman. “Seeing the training and actually participating in (it) firsthand, I know how much work went into it. Getting all of this set up was a great team effort, and the quality of the event just goes to show how much work, planning and cooperation went into it.”
Rodriguez said they were very fortunate to have so much support from the surrounding units, which provided personnel to help with the testing, as well as materials and planning support.
“Being in a deployed environment is difficult, because you don’t have easy access to resources that are easier to come by stateside” said Rodriguez. “The weather was obviously a big concern as well. We made sure we could hold the event without putting the candidates and staff in danger, by building all of the events and lanes with safety in mind. It was a challenge, but not impossible, and we were successful.”
Even though not every participant walked away with the badge, Rodriguez said there are other valuable lessons to take from an event like this.
“At the end of the day, just to hear (everybody) say they enjoyed the experience, that they feel positive about what they did, and they are proud of themselves, makes me feel good that we were able to provide that kind of quality training,” said Rodriguez. “It’s great knowing that these Soldiers are becoming that much better at being a medical professional when they come out on the other side, even if the badge isn’t earned.
“Because ultimately, what it really comes down to is taking care of people and being the professionals that our patients deserve,” she said.