(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

It doesn't matter what it is, somebody wants to be the best at it. For as long as time, competition has driven people to learn new skills and improve on the ones they know in order to rise to the top of their field. This desire to be best is what has baseball players at the batting cage long after the sun has set. It's what keeps runners sprinting down the track, shaving milliseconds off of their personal best.

This same competitiveness is what drives some medics within the United States Army. In one recent competition, 283 medics entered to see if they could earn the Expert Field Medical Badge. Only 17 — just six percent — met the requirements to be awarded the EFMB in a June 2018 test held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.


U.S. Army Spc. Austin Braussard-Rangel, a platoon medic assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, assesses and prepares a mock casualty with a neck injury to be removed from a vehicle during the Expert Field Medic Badge testing.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

So, what does it take to earn this badge? The requirements are many. The easy part, if you could call it that, is passing the Army Physical Fitness Test with scores of at least 60 in all three areas — earning a cumulative score of 180 or more. Of the other ten requirements, five are completed under simulated combat conditions.

Communications skills are also tested among candidates trying to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge — after all, that MEDEVAC won't call itself.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

Among the myriad skills tested is communication. Candidates for the EFMB must be able to prepare and transmit a MEDEVAC request correctly and be familiar with both communication procedures and the operation of field radios.

U.S. Army Sgt. Alex Pickens (left), a lab technician assigned to the Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes a mock casualty over a barrier with his litter team during the Expert Field Medic Badge testing at the Medical Support Training Center on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

During the competition, candidates must also negotiate an obstacle course while carrying a litter (under simulated combat conditions, of course) with three other candidates. There are eight obstacles to overcome, including an upstairs/uphill carry, a downhill/downstairs carry, a barbed-wire obstacle, and a trench obstacle.

Handling a chemical attack is also part of the EFMB evaluation. After all, a casualty can't wait for the poison gas to dissipate.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

Candidates also face a 100-question test — on which they need to get at least 75 questions right. Marksmanship (EFMB candidates much achieve the rating of Marksman or better), evacuation skills, and even cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques are also tested. As many as 25 percent of candidates can pass a given course, but rates of as low as five percent are not unheard of.

The Expert Field Medical Badge is reserved for only the fiercest competitors — those who strive to be the very best at helping others in even the most dire of circumstances.