By Sgt. Edward Balaban

Arizona National Guard public affairs

FLORENCE, Ariz. - Fifty-seven soldiers representing active duty, reserves and National Guard components reported recently to qualify for the elite Expert Field Medical Badge. At week's end, 11 candidates earned the coveted badge.

Scheduled for March before the torrid desert heat could take hold, the students range in rank from private to lieutenant colonel.

The Expert Field Medical Badge was established in June 1965 as a Department of the Army special skill award for the recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel.

In accordance with instruction, all enlisted personnel possess a medical military occupational specialty and all the officers are assigned or detailed to a component of the medical corps. All students are volunteers for the testing.

Additional prerequisites include recommendation by their unit commander, be physically and mentally prepared to cope with the rigorous testing demands as well as trained in the prevention of heat-related injuries, qualify as marksman or higher with their assigned weapon, secure a minimum of 180 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test with a minimum of 60 points in each event and possess current cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification.

Master Sgt. Rock Rakosi, an Arizona guardsman, qualified for the badge in 1987 and leads the training cadre for this event. Rakosi said the last time Arizona hosted this training was 1998.

"A combination of available candidates and convenient time brought the course back to Arizona now," Rakosi said.

"The testing coincides with spring break for most eastern Arizona colleges, allowing the majority of Guard and reserve soldiers, many of whom are students, to attend."

The scheduling of the course was not as critical to active-duty soldiers.

Pvt. Edwardo Jacquez, a Flagstaff native, joined the active duty Army in April. At 21, he has already qualified as a medic and is assigned to Fort Hood's 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

While "it feels good to be home in Arizona," Jacquez said he was "excited and grateful to be learning more about how I can better serve my fellow soldiers when we go into battle."

Another 69th Air Defense Artillery soldier, Pfc. Catherine Pinney, welcomed the challenges of the badge qualification and saw the experience as an opportunity to acquire and enhance her skills as an Army medic.

"The Expert Field Medical Badge is not only a personal qualification, but a visible measure of self-worth as an Army medic," she said.

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