FORT PICKETT, Va. –
In the infantry, obtaining the Expert Infantry Badge is a sign of prestige and reverence, earned by demonstrating a mastery of Soldier skills. For combat medics, the Expert Field Medic Badge, or EFMB, is its equivalent, earned through thorough testing of a combat medic’s knowledge of their craft and Soldier skills.
To prepare Soldiers of the Virginia National Guard for the challenge of the EFMB, Charlottesville-based Charlie Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, called “Charlie Med,” held a Best Medic Competition August 5-6, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.
“The EFMB is an individual event that focuses on both Soldier and medical skills,” said 1st Lt. Kaylah Young, platoon leader assigned to Charlie Med. “We wanted to capture that element while also incorporating team work into the competition.”
Young explained that the Best Medic Competition was conceived by Maj. Christy Gambill, commander of the Charlie Med.
“Our Commander gathered the platoon leaders and laid out her intentions,” said Young. She explained that Gambill wanted her Soldiers to face challenges similar to the ones posed by the EFMB.
“We wanted to focus on the Soldier skills that they would face in the competition,” said 2nd Lt. Annie Kim, a 429th BSB platoon leader. Kim explained that the three platoon leaders planned the event months in advance.
During the event, platoon leaders would each run a day-long lane they designed while the Soldier in their platoon helped run the lane, with winners selected at the end of each day.
In preparation for designing the lanes Young visited Fort Bragg and was able to observe the EFMB course and get insight onto the challenges that combat medics would face.
The Soldier skill challenges that the platoon leaders incorporated into the lanes ranged from a weapons function test, squad movement and building clearing to calling a nine-line medical evacuation and preparing a medical evacuation landing area. The combat medics faced challenges such as properly evacuating an individual with a neck wound from a vehicle and triaging, the arranging of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses, to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.
“We evaluated the teams using the EFMB grading matrix,” said Young. “We wanted them to be familiar
with how they were going to be graded and what the graders were looking for.”
Each platoon leader divided their platoon into two-person teams.
“We paired the teams up with one combat medic and one non-medic,” said 2nd Lt. Christina Dickerson, 429th BSB platoon leader. Dickerson explained the non-medic was allowed to assist the medic, but was
limited to combat lifesaver techniques and couldn’t perform any of the field medic tasks. However, they could assist with or conduct all of the basic Soldier tasks.
Spc. Brett Poffenberger, a combat medic, and Pfc. Julie Wheeler, a medical supply specialist, were paired together for the event.
“I’ve been in the unit for about six years,” said Poffenberger, an emergency medical technician and firefighter from Caroline County, Virginia. “I do this [in my civilian career], so I was paired with a new Soldier in the unit. I think that this is a great way to test your knowledge, because if you can teach
something to someone while in a stressful situation, then you know what you’re doing and you’re comfortable doing it.”
Overall the competition created a unique way to test the knowledge and skills of the Soldiers participating and prepared them for the EFMB.
“We could have just done training lanes,” said Dickerson. “But training can become routine and everybody loves a competition, so this was the perfect solution to prepare our medics for the EFMB.”
With the first Best Medic Competition complete, the intent is to make this on annual event.
“I think [the competition] went really well,”Gambill said. “I think they did great in running the competition and competing in it and we plan on doing this again.”
After three days of competition, platoon leaders evaluated the scores and named the winners from each day:
Day 1: 1st Place Team: Sgt. James Curry and Spc. Nicholas Sjostrom
Day 2: 1st Place Team: Spc. Jacob Ledford and Spc. Kyle Webb
Day 3: 1st Place Team: Staff Sgt. Zachery McGhee and Spc. Gracyn Smythe