News

Reservist medics train for prestigious combat badge

Staff Sgt. Kyle Bosshardt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medic, dons Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Staff Sgt. Kyle Bosshardt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medic, dons Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Captain Jeffrey Mermilliod and Staff Sgt. Kyle Bosshardt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medics, treat a training manikin for combat injuries in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Captain Jeffrey Mermilliod and Staff Sgt. Kyle Bosshardt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medics, treat a training manikin for combat injuries in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Captain Ryan Garabrandt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nurse, checks for spinal injuries on a training manikin in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Captain Ryan Garabrandt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nurse, checks for spinal injuries on a training manikin in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Captain Ryan Garabrandt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nurse, applies a tourniquet to a training manikin in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Captain Ryan Garabrandt, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nurse, applies a tourniquet to a training manikin in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Medics from the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron gather to train on various medical procedures in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Medics from the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron gather to train on various medical procedures in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

SrA Christopher Bowlds, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medic, checks an Airman’s Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

SrA Christopher Bowlds, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medic, checks an Airman’s Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Medics from the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron gather to train on various medical procedures in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

Medics from the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron gather to train on various medical procedures in preparation for the annual Expert Field Medical Badge test at McChord Field, Wash., Aug. 2, 2015. The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The Expert Field Medical Badge is a unique distinction worn only by the most battle-ready and elite medical personnel in the military. Every year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., a  two-week intensive testing event is set up to qualify eligible service members from around the country for the right to wear the coveted badge.

This year, eight Airmen from the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron out of McChord Field have risen to the challenge, training non-stop since March to prepare for the grueling challenge.

"It's exceptional for someone to be able wear this badge," said Capt. Jeffrey Mermilliod, 446th ASTS EFMB candidate. "Only about 17 percent of people that attempt this test ever make it all the way. Out of the 150 members in our unit only two have ever earned it."

The EFMB was originally awarded for exceptional medical service during combat operations, but was opened up during peacetime to give outstanding medics a chance to prove their skills through the completion of a  five-day test in a simulated combat environment.

"There are a few major components at play in the testing," explained Mermilliod. "They will test us on CBRNE, combat skills and the ability to react to enemy fire, weapon operations, engaging and returning fire, effectively taking cover and patient movement and treatment under fire."

After being put through a test of all the critical combat and medical skills, the remaining candidates must gut their way through a 12-mile ruck at the finale. Those who make it through the finish line will also cross into the top tier of expert medics.

"Training ourselves physically has been one of our top priorities," said Mermillod, "We know that having to ruck in that environment with very little sleep and already so exhausted is going to be very difficult, so we've tried to make sure that we can go above and beyond the requirement when we train."

For reservists, the honor of wearing the EFMB is especially unique. Not only are the slots difficult to secure, but each reservists has a very limited amount of time to train and prepare compared to active duty.

"When I was training to earn the EFMB as an active duty member many years ago I was not given a choice," said Capt. Luis Ibarra, U.S Army medic and recipient of the EFMB. "The training was tough, tedious and time consuming. That difficulty made it more of an honor for me to receive the badge.  I remember how it changed the way I was viewed by others as well. As a reservist, the opportunity to attempt to earn this badge is optional. The fact that these guys are willing to sacrifice some of their own time to earn such a difficult, yet prestigious award is enough for me to assist in helping them in any way I can."

Whether the 446th EFMB hopefuls earn the badge this year or not, there will be no regrets. They will be the first in the 446th ASTS to make the attempt while representing the unit and their pursuit will pay lasting dividends.

"The belief of our commander is that even the preparation to get this badge is worthwhile because of the excellent training it provides," said Mermilliod.  "I know we're all going to be better medical personnel as a result of it."

Follow along at the end of September for our coverage and results of the EFMB test.