About 200 Soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division competed for the chance to earn the distinguished Expert Field Medical Badge during testing in late October by the 701st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.
In the days before the competition's Oct. 25 start, medical professionals from throughout the "Big Red One" converged on Fort Riley training areas, using the time to train and prepare for the opportunity to earn their badges. The health care specialists from various units and installations were given blocks of instruction at each of the four stations to ensure every candidate had the opportunity to familiarize him or herself with the necessary materials, and all candidates knew what was expected to successfully complete each individual task.
"There's not that many challenges in the Army that involve everything this competition is comprised of," said Sgt. Minnette Sandoval, health care specialist, Company C, 701st BSB. "The physical and mental challenge is something that draws me in. It's the primary reason why I'm going after it."
EFMB testing consists of a comprehensive written test, day and night land navigation, numerous warrior tasks and drills, communications, combat casualty care tasks and evacuations. It was designed to challenge medics in the core competencies of not only their medical specialties, but also of being a Soldier.
The five-day competition kicked off with a land navigation course and a combat casualty care course. Those who were still in the running moved on to the written portion of the EFMB. Shifting onto the lanes, candidates were then tested on a battery of medical and Soldier tasks. One scenario had more than 200 subtasks, which had to be executed successfully in order for the candidates to move on.
As the days passed and the testing moved forward, the number of candidates narrowed, leaving only the best-trained for the final feat – a timed, 12-mile road march. Eighteen candidates remained.
"The hardest part, by far, was the road march," Sandoval said. "I now see why people call that portion of the EFMB testing the 'gut check.' To complete the march, you had to really want it." Sandoval, along with 13 other candidates, completed the road march within the required time and met all other necessary requirements, securing their victory and earning the coveted badge. Seemingly exhausted, but euphoric, the warriors made their way to Barlow Theater Oct. 29 for the badge presentation in front of fellow Soldiers, Families and leaders.
"The words brave, responsible and on point exemplify the standards of the troopers serving in this division and the individuals being recognized today," said guest speaker Brig. Gen. Sean Swindell, 1st Inf. Div. deputy commanding general for maneuver. "The prestigious EFMB recognizes these standards through exceptional competence and outstanding performance in a combat field environment."
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley, alongside Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Inf. Div. senior noncommissioned officer, shook hands, congratulated and pinned the EFMB on the Soldiers' uniforms. Prior to the badge presentation, Sandoval, who had the highest written test score, and Pfc. Jan Kemmann, 92nd Military Police Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., who completed the 12-mile road march in the fastest time, were both awarded with the title of Distinguished Candidate, receiving an Army Achievement Medal and an EFMB Coin of Excellence.
Sandoval said the reason she chose to compete for the EFMB was for the prestige.
"This has been a great experience and a great training opportunity," she said. "To have earned the EFMB at my home station with my battle buddies, the people I've been studying with for months, was really helpful.
"It feels fantastic to have achieved this. It's finally done. I studied and trained very hard for months, so I had high standards of myself coming into the EFMB. It feels good to see that my hard work and dedication paid off."
As Swindell addressed the supporters and EFMB awardees, he stressed the importance of the badge.
"These Soldiers that earned the EFMB are a sample of the very best our nation has to offer America's sons and daughters in need of care," he said. "With only a 17-percent pass rate Armywide, the EFMB remains one of the most prestigious and coveted awards a medical professional can obtain in the Army."