Purple smoke filled the air Monday as Spc. Alexander Hall worked his way through mock sniper fire and plenty of mud to reach the notional injuries in a wrecked Humvee.
Upon arrival, he assessed a spinal injury, another soldier with injuries to the abdomen and a shook up backseat passenger. The medic was then required to drag the most injured patient on a specialized litter through the remainder of the nearly two-hour training lane, bringing him one step closer to being pinned with the expert field medical badge.
“(The badge) is a sign of being an expert,” said Capt. John Krukar, an testing evaluator from 1st Medical Brigade. “One of the great things about the badge is if you wear it, it’s instant credibility.”
Many soldiers, like Krukar, who already wear the badge describe it as a medic’s equivalent to an infantryman’s Ranger tab.
To earn the coveted badge, candidates have to pass a week’s worth of events — three combat training lanes, a day and night land navigation and a 12-mile ruck march. Testing began Saturday with a written test and 284 candidates. By Monday, there were only 134.
An 8 to 10 percent pass rate is normal, Krukar said.
Spc. Casey Gonzales, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was going through the badge testing for the second time this week.
“The first time you have a lot of jitters and you don’t know what to expect. The second time, you know what to study,” she said.
The details and small steps necessary to pass the training lanes are the hardest parts, Gonzales said.
“It might not be physically, but mentally, it’s very challenging,” she said. “I ran through it all in my head a lot of times. I used my partner as a dummy.”
Before testing began, evaluators were reviewed by a team from Fort Sam Houston to ensure the required level of standard was met, said Capt. Daniel Davis, officer in charge of the training.
“We have regulations we follow that allow us to grade to an exacting standard,” said Sgt. Joshua Chebret, an evaluator from 1st Brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. “We standardize early to reduce variants.”
The final portion of the test — the ruck march — will be conducted Thursday, and those who pass will earn the right to wear the badge on their uniform.
“It’s a commitment of life,” Davis said. “It shows they made a commitment for more than 10 days, but for a lifetime.”