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Fort Riley civilians support Expert Field Medical Badge qualification

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | October 27, 2017

     Civilians from the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, particularly the staff who work at Douthit Gunnery Com­plex, began preparing months ahead to clear the grounds, build lanes, set up a land navigation course and more, to facilitate the Expert Field Medical Badge qualification held at Fort Riley from Oct. 16 to 26.

    The EFMB test is one of the most sought after special skills badges because it is a symbol of excellence in technical and tacti­cal proficiency within the Army Medical Department, said Steve Crusinberry, DPTMS chief. At­tempting to earn the badge requires a high degree on ability and focus. The evaluation is a rigorous test on the candidate’s mental and physical skills, and the average passing rate is 17 percent. Candidates rarely ever pass it on their first try and it typi­cally takes them from two to six tries to get it.

     Personnel at Douthit began planning and setting up the course for the test four months before the 76 candidates from 1st Infantry Di­vision, eight other states around the nation and Vincenza, Italy, began their evaluation. Crusinberry said Fort Riley is an ideal location to host the EFMB course because they not only can provide regional training capability to the 1st Inf. Div., but they also support their total Army partners in the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.

     “Geographically we are perfectly situated, we are right in the middle of everything — right in the middle of everywhere,” Crusinberry said. “So to hold an EFMB here, it is efficient, it makes sense, it’s great training for our Soldiers. We’ve got the best training capabilities in the Army, in my humble opinion … the 1st Inf. Div., they are the premier trainers in the U.S. Army today and to be able to support that ef­fort with our facilities is unbelievable for us and it’s a great opportunity.”

     The open field chosen for the EFMB test site was a blank slate prior to the Douthit staff terraforming it to suit the combat testing lane standards. Grass had to be mowed, berms had to be dug, pits for smoke screens had to be excavated, more than 70 markers for the land navigation course had to be positioned and obstacles — such as the high and low walls, low crawl made from barbed wire, and more — had to be constructed. But Crusinberry said the personnel at Douthit were not the only civilians who played an instrumental role in the planning, logistics and execution of the test.

    “There are a whole lot of civilians and military that is involved, tying this whole thing together ... to make this a success,” he said. “The Training Support Center, Troy Russell (TSC chief) and his team just did a phenomenal job helping the EFMB team with getting enough equipment and getting training de­vices up there to create realistic training. Tom Black and his Range Operations team were instrumental in helping to lay out the 12-mile road march … and the Directorate of Emergency Service — more civil­ians — helping to game warden and make sure that things are safe.”

      The concept for the EFMB course is combat testing lanes. There are four main training areas used at Douthit for the course. In each of those training areas, three lanes are created based on skillsets that need to be tested where EFMB candidates would negotiate their tasks. These lanes are created by ei­ther mowing across the grassland, clearing out the trees or building out the prairie.

     Capt. Jamie Pecha, 1st Inf. Div. preventive medi­cine officer, is the tactical operations center officer in charge and on the test board, which is the ap­proving authority for the event. She said the Dou­thit team particularly helped in CTL 3. In this lane, candidates are tasked with performing a medical evacuation through crossing obstacles while carrying a weighted litter. Obstacles built in CTL 3 were a road, a low 3-feet wall, a high 5-feet wall, a barbed wire low clearing and a narrow path.

    “To delineate a road in an open field, they had built up berms to show and they made a road,” Pe­cha said. “Three weeks ago this was an absolutely empty field that was out here and they were able to build all of the obstacles to be able to test these skills. Without it we wouldn’t be able to run the EFMB because you couldn’t test those skills.”

     Fort Riley held a couple of EFMB tests in the past, but Pecha said they had moved the locations for several of the lanes this year, so they relied on the ci­vilians to help build those sites up. The land naviga­tion space used for the course had not been assigned for that purpose previously, so her unit had to design a site with functioning coordinates from scratch.

     “The civilians went out and helped us place over 70 markers for the land navigation site,” Pecha said. “We drove long stakes into the ground with mark­ers on it, so the civilians helped make the markers — per our regulation size — and went out and put them all in the ground at the exact spot that had to be with the grid coordinate. That is 70 points and that is no easy feat out there.”

     Pecha said the team at Douthit also dug out lo­cations where the cadre facilitating the test can cre­ate pyrotechnics that simulate indirect fire, mortar, smoke or anything that makes a loud boom to mim­ic the real scenario where a wounded Soldier would be evacuated from the battlefield.

     “The way we execute those out here is we have the pyrotechnics, but we have to drop them in big holes for safety concerns,” she said. “The civilians came out; they put those safety holes in for us to make sure we can safely execute our training, but the way we needed to for a realistic approach to the training. We are still in a controlled environment, so we are nice and safe, but they helped add that realis­tic approach to it.”

     Douthit not only helped with creating a realis­tic training facility, but they also provided a reliable and clean environment for the candidates to live for the duration of the course. While participants are not practicing their skills or testing, the gun­nery complex provides life support to the candi­dates and cadre.

     “This really is a beautiful complex to be able to run a training like this, especially to have out­side units to come into,” Pecha said. “A lot of units come in expecting to be sleeping in tents and not a lot of heat. We have a hardstand bathroom, which means they’re not in Porta Potties like chemical la­trines. And we have shower facilities that they can use daily. A lot of training sites do not have that ability. So not only do we have the realistic training, but we also have a nice place for them to come back at night to be able to study, conduct that personal hygiene and get some rest so they’re prepared to train the next day.”

     Fred Siebe, manager of Douthit, and his team of six staff members at the gunnery complex continued going back to the training area to ensure each one of the lanes was maintained until the end of the test­ing period. When the event was done, Siebe and his team tore down the sites so the next unit in need of training can utilize the land. He said he and his team would be saving most the items they built until the next EFMB course is held at Fort Riley.

     “We are not really in an active role, but a reactive role right now so if there is any event, we would go out there and assist and do any corrections needed,” Siebe said. “The walls would be removed with a forklift, lifted out and then we will partially disas­semble them so we can store those here in one of my maintenance rooms. We will remove all the stakes from the land navigation portion and those will be either given back to the unit or we will end up stor­ing those.”

      Crusinberry praised the hard work Douthit staff has achieved to get the EFMB course going.

      “The work that (Siebe) and his team put togeth­er is just top of the line,” Crusinberry said. “Bottom line, training these medics, what else can we do that’s more important than helping to train Army medics that save the lives of our Soldiers that go into com­bat. There’s nothing better.”