By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - The heat proved to be medical soldiers' biggest foe Friday as they headed into the final day of the Expert Field Medical Badge competition.
Of the 241 soldiers vying for the coveted badges at Fort Hood for the last two weeks, 90 were left as of 11 a.m. Thursday. Just 85 of those went on to the big final event Friday morning - a 12-mile road march.
High humidity and temperatures knocked out most of those soldiers and 18 crossed the finish line in the allotted time to get their badges, which many said are more difficult to earn than the Expert Infantryman's Badge.
The competition started with a 60-question written test covering everything from medical procedures to detainee operations and care. The soldiers then visited 43 stations in three combat training lanes and made their way through day and night land navigation courses.
Those who didn't pass the written test were given the opportunity to continue with the competition during retesting Thursday. If they didn't pass it then, they were out, regardless of how they performed at the lanes.
Pfc. Jonathan Black, of the 115th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Polk, La., was recognized as the participant with the highest "go rate" of the event. Soldiers had to correctly perform a certain number of tasks at each station to advance. Black received a "no go" at only one.
Second Lt. Matthew Hester, of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, was recognized as the highest scorer on the written test, correctly answering 54 questions.
Spc. Stephen Hanna, of the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, had the fastest road march time with 2 hours, 50 minutes.
Testing took place at a Fort Hood range. Even though officials provided shade, water and air-conditioned sleeping tents, the heat - which stayed in the 100s throughout the event - took its toll on the soldiers.
Eight were taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center with heat-related illnesses Friday morning, according to information from Fort Hood. Three were treated and released, three were admitted in fair condition, one transported to Killeen's Metroplex in serious condition and one was transported to Temple's Scott & White Hospital in serious condition, according to information from Fort Hood.
"This is some of the toughest training in the Army," said Maj. Chad Carroll, 1st Cavalry spokesman. "Our units had the proper personnel and medical equipment on hand to treat personnel and get them to the next level of care."
The division hosted the event, which drew soldiers from across the Army.
Read more about the competition and find out who received their badges in next week's Fort Hood Herald.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.