Grafenwöhr, 20 April 2017
For two weeks, over 210 soldiers from eleven nations took part in one of the most difficult and prestigious examinations of the US army. Only a very few pass the exam. This time two soldiers of the naval battalion from Eckernförde were among those to receive the badge.

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(© U. S. Air Force/Jordan Castelan)
“Clear the carbine, disassemble, reassemble and perform a functions check in under three minutes!” The examiners’ instructions are clear.  But the problem is that this time the German soldiers at the US training area in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria, aren’t handling their usual G36 assault rifles but American M4s.
“Check for DCAP-BTLS, TIC and signs of progressive respiratory distress. Re-assess my BSI.” What may sound confusing to most is nothing unusual for the participants in the Expert Field Medical Badge Competition 2017 held by US Army Europe. It does help to broaden their horizons, though, as the new procedures they are getting to know in this specialists’ competition are very demanding.
In addition to medical assignments, the candidates need to demonstrate their skills in other disciplines.
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(© USAF Kimball)

The competition comprises 46 practical exams in tactical combat casualty care, combat situations, communication, recovery and rescue, orientation and combat marches as well as a written examination. A high number of participants fail, on average about 80 percent. “Only about 17 percent of the members of the Army Medical Corps have the honour of wearing this badge,” explains Colonel Brian D. Almquist, commander of the 212th Combat Support Hospital, during his words of welcome. His unit organises the international competition.

International participants

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(© USAF Kimball)

Over 20 participants selected from Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, FYR Macedonia, Denmark, Albania, Italy, Lithuania, Czechia and Croatia joined the US soldiers. Most of them serve as field medics in combat units or are doctors. The US medics mainly come from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 30th Medical Brigade.
“It’s great to see so many international participants. We get to know so many nations, the ways they work, their equipment and their tactics,” says Chief Petty Officer Marc N. from the naval security company of the naval battalion from Eckernförde. “And that’s on top of the really impressive stuff the US Army has to offer.” The soldiers all met at the training area in Grafenwöhr in the Upper Palatinate region of Germany to familiarise themselves with the American weapons, vehicles, tactics and procedures. In the end, they all wanted the same thing: to win the highly coveted Expert Field Medical Badge.
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(© USAF Kimball)
Versatility and precision are required
One thing quickly became clear to all participants: this competition won’t be at all easy. In addition to the medical assignments which give the badge its name, the participants must also demonstrate their skills in combat situations. This means excelling in fire fights, overcoming obstacles and setting up helipads as well as handling other nations’ radios and weapons. All this will be closely watched by strict examiners who will punish any imperfect execution with a harsh “no go.” In spite of the time pressure, participants need to stay calm and focused and work accurately. “Sometimes you are totally sweaty and exhausted after having spent an hour with a patient, even without performing any real physical activity. The mental strain and exertion are pushing many of us here to the limit,” admits Lieutenant Christian H. “There is also a huge amount to stuff to learn. Some evenings have reminded me of the times I had to study for exams at uni. The correct English vocabulary and the different procedures alone are a real challenge.”
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(© USAF Kimball)
Long days and short nights
There is a continuously high level of exertion. All participants have to march to the exam stations carrying their entire equipment and their weapons. What follows is an entire day of combat training and preparations for exams. Food comes in the form of American military rations. After that it’s the march back, dinner and retreat to the study hall, where the soldiers intensively prepare for the exams. Most of them stay here till late at night. Those who are serious about winning study for as long as they can keep their eyes open and focus. On average, the participants get only four hours of sleep a night in sleeping quarters they have to share with 40 other soldiers.

High level of skills and a strong field

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(© USAF Kimball)
Those who have mastered all the exams get to participate in the final combat march. The soldiers have to complete a distance of 20 kilometres with 20 kilos of baggage and their entire combat equipment including their weapon. They have a maximum of three hours to complete the march. But they know that, if they reach the finish line within that time, they will have made it.
The competition ends with a closing ceremony where 64 of the 210 participating soldiers, including 15 international participants and the two soldiers of the German naval battalion, receive the coveted badge. The representative of US Army Europe, Brigadier General Phillip S. Jolly, had praise for the participants, saying, “This was the strongest group of international soldiers that has ever participated in this competition.”
“I’m beyond happy that I was given the opportunity to compete,” says Christian H. “I was one of only two naval soldiers in this competition, which naturally made us a curiosity. But we were able to demonstrate to everybody the professionalism of the naval battalion. I hope that we will get the chance to present the German navy here in the coming years too.”

This is a translation of an article by Christian hofmann published on www.marine.de

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