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Soldiers from the 168th Medical Battalion do a live run-through of the Emergency Medical Technician portion of the Expert Field Medical Badge test Monday at Warrior Base, South Korea.
Soldiers from the 168th Medical Battalion do a live run-through of the Emergency Medical Technician portion of the Expert Field Medical Badge test Monday at Warrior Base, South Korea. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

WARRIOR BASE, South Korea — Last week, 329 soldiers gathered at this muddy training range just south of the Demilitarized Zone to take on one of the Army’s most grueling and technical tests: qualification for the Expert Field Medical Badge.

By Monday, with less than 48 hours remaining before graduation day for the successful candidates, fewer than half still were in the running.

“That’s why they call it the ‘Expert’ test and not the ‘Easy’ test,” joked Capt. Mike Salvitti, in charge of this year’s version of the annual exam.

Though his goal was to have a 36 percent pass rate, Salvitti said Monday the results would most likely come closer to the Army average of 18 percent. It’s a testament to the physical and mental challenges of the test. In certain portions, a single mistake can eliminate a candidate.

Soldiers cannot receive a “no go” on any of the hundred testing tasks; there are no retests. And with good reason, Salvitti said. “When it comes down to it, if you were a casualty, would you want a guy working on you that got it right two out of three times?” he asked.

All around Warrior Base, signs trumpet the “EFMB on the DMZ.” EFMB qualification consists of a written exam, weapons qualifications, medevac skills, emergency medical treatment, day and night land navigation, a litter obstacle course, a twelve-mile forced march and a survival test.

The EFMB, trainers said, can be earned by any person assigned or detailed to an Army Medical Department Corps unit — from E1 to O6.

To ensure each candidate gets a fair appraisal, Salvitti said, more than 200 qualified soldiers and support personnel run the test — and a “challenge” process lets candidates question whether they were graded accurately and fairly.

And it’s likely candidates will take several tries to pass the test, which is given just once a year.

“It was a great experience and I’ve learned a lot about leading soldiers and how the test works,” said 2nd Lt. Jason Hughes, a supply officer with the 702nd Medical Support Battalion.

Hughes was eliminated during the communications portion but asked to stay around for the remainder of the test to learn how it’s done, in hopes of passing next year.

“I’ll go on the road march and make sure my soldiers finish that,” he said about the EFMB test’s final portion. “For them to get so close, I don’t want them to fail on the last part.”

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