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Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

Medics become experts

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The Maneuver Center of Excellence is a place of many graduations. From initial entry training to Ranger School, Airborne qualification to the Maneuver Captains Career Course, almost every day is graduation day at Fort Benning.

The MCoE is certainly a popular place to earn badges and tabs, but Monday marked the first time in more than a decade one of the most coveted badges for medics had been awarded on post.

A group of 149 Soldiers started the 120 hours of testing with one common goal: to pin on the Expert Field Medical Badge.

The EFMB was authorized in 1965, and is preceded only by the Combat Medical Badge, making it one of the highest awards an Army medic can wear.

For the 41 who completed the requirements and now wear the badge, the process started long before they met to start the familiarization phase.

“Training on Kelley Hill was key,” said 2nd Lt. Andrew Gilker, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “Although the 60- question written test was tough, the long hours of studying and preparing really paid off.”

The guest speaker at graduation echoed those thoughts as explanation for an unusually high graduation rate.

“The training at the units’ home station was key,” said Col. Bruce McVeigh, commander of the 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), III Corps, based at Fort Hood, Texas. “Once here, mentor study halls every night really set the conditions for success.”
 The average graduation rate for EFMB lanes is near 20 percent, but the course held at Fort Benning graduated 41 Soldiers, or 28 percent.

In addition to the training offered at the unit level, 14th Combat Support Hospital offered two extra days of training for the candidates.

“I’m proud of the 14th CSH,” McVeigh said. “All the way through, this has been an exceptional event and we look forward to making this an annual event at Fort Benning.”

To wear the coveted badge, candidates must pass an Army Physical Fitness Test, complete a day and night land navigation course, and tackle a 12-mile road march with standard fighting load in less than three hours. Along with a dizzying list of medic-related tasks, the candidates had a long list to complete in a short amount of time. For those who prepared, the reward is well worth the effort.

“This means they are in an elite group,” McVeigh said. “Only 5 percent of medics across the Army have earned the Expert Field Medical Badge.”

Gilker said he understands the importance of his newest badge.

“I have many people to thank for helping me get here,” he said. “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work, and it means a lot to stand here and be recognized as an expert in my field.”

McVeigh said he is proud of his medic brethren as they continue the tradition of the Expert Field Medical Badge.

“It puts them as standouts,” he said. “They have truly adopted the profession of arms.”

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