CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- Army Spc. Michael Werner, Milnor, N.D., a member of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Multinational Battle Group East received the opportunity to attend the Expert Field Medical Badge course June 17.
He is assigned to the medical task force of NATO Kosovo Force, as a ground ambulance medic.
Each year, soldiers with military occupational specialties in the medical field come together in hopes of earning the EFMB. The EFMB is the Army medic’s equivalent of the Expert Infantryman’s Badge.
“The first time I ever saw this badge was at Basic Combat Training on my Drill Sergeant,” Werner said. “He told us the story about it, and since then I wanted to go through this course. As soon as I had the chance, I jumped on it, and was the first on the list.”
The EFMB was designed as a special skill award for recognition of excellence, proficiency, and exceptional performance by field medical personnel and approved by the Department of the Army on June 18, 1965.
To earn this coveted badge, a soldier’s mental and physical skills are tested, as well as medical skills. The EFMB course testing has evolved over time to reflect the skills soldiers currently need and are required to use in today’s combat.
Werner’s course was held in Baumholder, Germany, an active duty Army post, nestled in the wooded hills of the Western Palatinate in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. Baumholder is located in a unique area centrally located in Europe with France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Austria, Switzerland and the Bavarian Alps, all within a few hours' drive.
The first two weeks, candidates work with the instructors running through scenarios in the combat testing lanes and are briefed on the warrior tasks they are expected to complete.
During the third week candidates take the written test, complete a day and night land navigation course, and their skills are tested in the combat lanes. The event culminates with the 12-mile foot march.
To earn the badge, Werner underwent a series of realistic scenarios that a medic might go through while in combat. He and his comrades treated soldiers while under small arms fire, during explosions, through smoke and under nuclear, biological and chemical simulations.
The candidates must also use current methods of casualty care such as applying a Combat Application Tourniquet, homeostatic clotting agent and emergency trauma dressing to treat simulated casualties.
They must also evacuate their patients to different evacuation vehicles, tracked vehicles, nonstandard vehicles, such as Humvees and 5 ton trucks and helicopters. All of this takes place under simulated indirect fire and improvised explosive devices over, through and around obstacles.
The soldiers had to demonstrate to the evaluators that they could perform their duties as medics first and foremost under stressful conditions. They had to treat and evacuate wounded soldiers, communicate under fire and navigate unknown terrain during day and night.
“This was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done,” Werner stated. “We had long days, little sleep, and the tasks were very challenging. It was cold and raining all but two days there. It was all hills and trees.
The simulated reality of gunfire and explosions are a constant presence. Smoke bombs create a hazy and difficult path for soldiers to see. Once through, the lane comes into view – along with the wounded soldiers.
“These were the most realistic injuries I have even seen,” Werner said. “The paint and make up was so real, and some had blood everywhere.”
“The CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosive) tasks were the most difficult,” Werner added. “If you don’t constantly use it, you lose it – those are perishable skills.”
Werner graduated and was pinned with his course classmates on June 12 in Baumholder. A ceremony was held in his honor June 17 at Camp Bondsteel upon his return. On behalf of the medical task force, he was presented a framed plaque with the Falcon Med flag and an Expert Field Medical Badge inside.
Army Brig. Gen Al Dohrmann, Multinational Battle Group East commander, was present.
“This is quite an accomplishment,” Dohrmann said. “You should be very proud and it is great to see the support you have here from the hospital. Congratulations.”
Out of roughly 400 soldiers attending this class, approximately 50 graduated with Werner. He was the only National Guard soldier in attendance – everyone else was an active component soldier.
“This made it a little tougher,” Werner said. “I got a lot of grief because I only do this one weekend a month and two weeks a year and they do it all the time. Before they got to know me or my skill level, they already counted me out.”
More than 96,000 personnel have competed for the Expert Field Medical Badge since 1986.
Today, the EFMB is the greatest challenge of the professional competence and physical endurance of the medical soldier. The pass rate for achieving this badge is between 15 and 20 percent, making the EFMB one of the most difficult and prestigious Army skill badges to earn.
“It’s an honor to receive this badge,” stated Army 1st Sgt. Tamela Price, Chattanooga, Tenn., Camp Bondsteel Hospital Ward Master and a member of the 1207 U.S. Army Hospital from Georgia, who earned this badge in 2003.
“There is a special bond you have with that person,” she said. “You share what you have accomplished, knowing you’ve been through the same thing – they’ve walked your path and that of those who have earned that badge.”
“I am extremely proud of him. I knew he was the perfect candidate, even before he left [for the course],” Price added.
Werner thanked everyone who supported him and helped him with training before he left.
“Receiving this badge gives me a sense of pride and confidence," said Werner. "I know I can do anything now, knowing what I went through and accomplished.”
Multinational Battle Group East is a U.S- led task force commanded by Dohrmann. This battle group is comprised of nearly 1,200 soldiers, including Greece, Poland, Ukraine, and Turkey. The charter mission of MNBG E is maintaining a safe and secure environment and providing freedom of movement for the people in Kosovo.