354th MDG Airman is first to receive Army medical badge

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt Codi Clemmons
  • 354th Fighter Wing

After three weeks of mental and physical testing, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tavin Rice, 354th Medical Group Aerospace Medical Technician, defies all odds and becomes the first Airman in 10 years to receive the Expert Field Medical Badge across the Pacific Air Forces.

The EFMB is a special skill badge earned by military members that undergo a lengthy qualification that consists of multiple trials and tests dealing with medical knowledge and physical abilities.

“The EFMB is considered more difficult to obtain than the Expert Soldier Badge or the Expert Infantry Badge,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Dakota Coats, Clinical Operations NCOIC in the Medical Department Activity - Alaska. “Historically a pass rate above 25 percent is considered high.” 

Since 1965, Soldiers have attempted the EFMB qualification however, in recent years Airmen, Sailors and NATO members have become EFMB recipients. For this recent qualification held at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, June 28 - July 21, 2023, participants included a total of 87 Army Soldiers and one Air Force member, Senior Airman Rice. Out of the 88 candidates, 41 passed and earned the EFMB.

“Being the only Airman among soldiers is definitely a unique experience,” Rice said. “The soldiers that were in my platoon were all very welcoming and willing to help or
answer whatever questions I had.”

Before being accepted as a candidate, service members must first qualify as an expert with their assigned weapon either a rifle or pistol. After qualifying the service member takes a written test consisting of 65 questions. They must have 45 correct answers to pass and continue. The questions range across extensive medical knowledge including but not limited to human and canine trauma, laboratory and radiology equipment, and echelons of care.

“I studied for two weeks, daily for two hours and was able to memorize information,” Rice said.

Once the service member passes, they spend three weeks in the field. The first two weeks consist of field training to prepare for week three where they test their skills. They train to learn warrior skills, medical trauma and patient evacuation skills and land navigation.

During test week candidates must pass the EFMB expert physical fitness test consisting of multiple workouts unlike the typical Air force Physical Fitness Assessment. There are a total of seven workouts to be completed in 30 minutes including running, push-ups and weightlifting.

“The test requires sustaining a high heart rate while running and moving equipment in full uniform,” Coats said.

The fitness test immediately follows with day and night iterations of land navigation through the Alaskan wilderness. During this event candidates demonstrate their expertise by locating three out of four assigned locations to pass.

“Prior to the actual EFMB course I had never done any land navigation, so my first few iterations were rough,” Rice said. “Alaska has many unique challenges that make land navigation even harder such as terrain, moose and mosquitoes.”

With the help of his platoon members, Rice completed land navigation and proceeded to the testing lanes which included multi-day testing of medical skills.

“One day consists of 10 warrior skills such as camouflage, movement under fire and handling communications equipment,” Coats said. “Another day consists of 10 evacuation skills in which you will load and unload casualties from different vehicles and perform various carries and drags while moving patients through obstacles. The last day of skill testing is the trauma lanes in which the service member performs lifesaving interventions on three trauma casualties simultaneously.”

The last leg of the qualification is a 12-mile road march to be finished in under three hours while carrying 35 pounds of dry weight and completing a weapons function check at the end. After carrying all his equipment for miles, Rice took his last step to qualify for the badge and graduated on July 21, 2023. At the ceremony, U.S. Air Force Capt. Rachel Lara, 354th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Director of Psychological Health, pinned on his badge.

Rice said he would not have been able to compete without the help from Lara, a former recipient of the badge during previous service in the Army.

“She was instrumental in helping me achieve the badge through navigating the Army documents and Air Force regulations to make sure that I had what I needed,” Rice said.

With this additional skill set, Lara believes Rice has brought back to Eielson knowledge that will help the Air Force.

“A person with this badge has learned more skills, perfected more skills, and learned how to function in a difficult environment to perform lifesaving procedures than they ever would through any training normally offered to medics in the Air Force,” Lara said. “Therefore, it is arguable that a badge holder would be considered an expert among peers and is able to do their job in any situation, which is of great benefit to Airmen and the USAF.

Rice mentioned that this is one of his greatest accomplishments.

“I have been in for almost six years now and every time I look at my uniform, I am reminded that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to despite how challenging it might be,” Rice said. “My career has had many ups and downs, but this is definitely my greatest achievement so far.”

For more information about EFMB go to https://medcoe.army.mil/efmb.