British Army medic from 1 Armoured Medical Regiment in Germany earns US Army's Expert Field Medical Badge.
Private Aaron Eastman (22), a combat medical technician serving with 1 Armoured Medical Regiment, based in Paderborn, Germany, has successfully mastered one of the US Army's toughest tests in Grafenwöhr (Bavaria, Germany), earning the US Army Europe's 2017 Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB).
A total of 215 candidates from 11 countries were striving for this prestigious badge during the five-day challenge but only 64 candidates managed to pass the tests successfully.
Private Aaron Eastman from Barnstable in North Devon has demonstrated exceptional competence and outstanding performance during the gruelling 120-hour testing event.
He was required to exhibit superior physical fitness and mental clarity when faced with life-or-death situations. Testing included a written exam, combat testing lanes (CTLs), daytime and night-time, land navigation, and a 12-mile road march.
The biggest challenges for Aaron were the American Fitness Test, the use of American equipment like radios, vehicles and medical equipment and the tiring long days and late nights.
"It was extremely overwhelming in the first week. There was a lot to learn, a lot to take in with not a great deal of sleep, late nights and early mornings. It was tough, but at the same time, it was also enjoyable," said Private Aaron Eastman.
Three testing lanes required soldiers to complete 42 tasks from four categories: tactical combat casualty care, evacuation, communication and warrior skills. An evaluator shadows each candidate, judging their reactions and their performance of each task without giving any feedback.
With only a 10-20 percent pass rate, the Expert Field Medical Badge is of the most prestigious and coveted awards a medical professional can obtain in the Army. It is a symbol of excellence, an outward sign of technical and tactical proficiency. Simply performing steps in the wrong order, forgetting to check a pulse or not marking a T on a casualty’s forehead after applying a tourniquet will cause a Soldier to fail a task. Soldiers who fail a certain number of tasks from any category are eliminated immediately.
"I found out about the competition from a colleague who probably undersold what actually was required. I only found out the exact details later. But yes, when I found out about it, I was keen and I wanted to get involved. I consulted with my chain of command and put my name down for it. That was only about 4 weeks ago," explained Private Aaron Eastman. "The Expert Field Medical Badge competition involves medical tasks, evacuation tasks like loading casualty onto vehicles or casualty drags and manoeuvres, communication using the American radios and warrior skills which including CBRN and operating with American weapons systems and care under fire."
This is the first time that Aaron has worked with medics from other Armies. That experience alone, he said, made the trip worth it. "They use equipment we don’t have and other processes of loading casualties onto equipment that we don’t use. All of this will be useful for the future, especially as we are more likely to work on future deployments together in multinational teams."
"It feels extremely good that I have passed. That’s probably underselling it. Personally, I only know one other soldier in the British Army that has earned it. There are more soldiers out there, but certainly not many. I hope to help others to get the badge in the future. I’ve already been asked to go back and help as one of the validators. I can go back and help and teach others, which enables me to further my skills. My advice to anyone wanting to take part in the EFMB competition is to study hard and to be prepared for the physical and mental challenge. You’re going to be tired, you may get a bit ill-tempered and lethargic, but stick with it and put the effort in. It’s only two weeks in total, so do your best and always trust what you get taught."