Former president Richard Nixon said, “Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.”
Spc. Jessica Lazo’s story is not one of an inspiring accomplishment or defeat, but a never-quit attitude as she embarked on her quest for the Army’s Expert Field Medical Badge, from May 10 to 20.
The test is a 10-day event in which soldiers in medical career fields can earn the coveted badge by performing more than 30 critical and medical soldiers’ tasks through three separate combat testing lanes, said Maj. Matthew Mapes, executive officer of 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, and the testing officer-in-charge.
The 10 days are broken up into five days of testing-lane study and five days of actual testing with a 60-question written test on the first day and a 12-mile foot march on the last day, Mapes said.
All aspects of the test are timed and graded. Upon successful completion of all the events, each participant will earn the badge, he said.
Lazo, a combat medic with Charlie Company, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was one of about 173 Fort Hood soldiers to take on the test.
Her journey started September 2012 when she was in the rank of private, new to the military and competing for the badge for the first time, she said.
“I originally wanted to earn (the badge) for career progression and keep myself competitive in my field,” she said.
Dedicated to test
Lazo said she had no expectations on the outcome of the test but was dedicated to doing her best. “I did my best, studied at night, and learned all I could from my instructors,” she said.
Despite her best efforts, her lack of experience in land navigation caused her to fail the event, and she was dropped from testing, she said. Never one to accept defeat, Lazo continued to train and grow from the experience to attempt the test the following year.
Jan. 13, 2013, brought a similar yet slightly different take on the test, the Miami native said. This test was conducted at Fort Bliss, which came with an entirely different type of terrain from what Lazo was accustomed to.
“The test was very similar in terms of testing, but the geography was different,” she said. “I better prepared myself the second time, especially in land navigation.”
She kept a committed attitude and successfully passed the land navigation portion of the test, she said. However, that triumph was diminished on the 12-mile foot march.
“I was more than eight miles into the foot march,” she said. “It was cold, and without really noticing what was happening, I passed out,” she said.
Won’t give up
Lazo refused to give up.
“The third attempt was more personal, like a vendetta between me and the badge,” she said.
The personal nature of her struggle gave her the spirit to study harder and the willingness to adapt and stay mentally prepared.
“I understand the test’s attrition rate is high,” she said, “but I will accomplish this. I know it is possible to succeed.”
In this year’s badge test, her preparedness paid off in the beginning, but in the end Lazo said she was disqualified after the land navigation portion of the test.
“It was heartbreaking,” Lazo said. “I prepared but couldn’t have anticipated how difficult it was to navigate the test site’s terrain.”
She said it hurt her pride a little, but she wasn’t ready to admit defeat. “I really want this badge,” she said. “Every time I attempt to earn it, it means a little more to me.”
Lazo’s advice to anyone wanting to earn the medical badge, or anyone who’s on the second or third attempt is simple: train hard and don’t give up. She said her fourth attempt at the badge is scheduled for the fall.