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Army medics put life-saving skills to the test

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Nick Swann - 7:42 PM August 12, 2014

Army medics put their skills on the line Tuesday in one of the military’s toughest tests.

It was a type of obstacle course specifically for doctors with all the challenges and stresses of battlefield triage.

Pfc. Dustin Munoz was one of the soldiers taking the test to earn his Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB).

Being a medic, he says, is something he’s always wanted.

“I always liked helping people, helping the heroes of our nation in combat, making sure they get home safe to their families and loved ones,” Munoz said.

Munoz started the test with some basic soldiering skills, like Army crawls and weapons handling.

Watching his every move was test evaluator Staff Sgt. Tino Vanegas.

As an evaluator, Vanegas says it’s his job to “pay attention, listen to what they’re saying, watch where their hands are going, make sure they’re touching and saying everything as they’re doing it.”

The soldiers were required to complete 18 tasks perfectly and in order. Missing a few could result in failing the test.

“We do want them to pass, but they will earn their badge,” Vanegas said. “We’re not giving away the badges out here.”

During the course, Munoz reached his first patient, a soldier with a gunshot wound. He performed a full body exam before administering any treatment.

As Munoz worked carefully, Vanegas watched for any missteps.

Munoz’s next task upped the pressure. The sounds of mortars exploding and wounded soldiers calling for help could be heard all around him.

A stressed Munoz was forced to focus.

“There’s no smoke, there’s no gunfire, there’s just that patient and remembering all the other patients,” Munoz said.

He completed the triage and readied the patients for evacuation. When all the soldiers were loaded, Munoz had successfully completed that particular leg of the test. There, Munoz waited with the other test takers, wondering the outcome of the round.

Vanegas has good news. Munoz passed; he will move on.

“I thought I was going to fail there for a second, but I got it,” Munoz said. “There was a lot of little things. I’m happy I got a go for it.”

The test’s finale included a 12-mile march, which Munoz completed. The badge and a major achievement waited for him at the finish line.

Only about 15 percent of test takers will earn their EFMB. The badge is coveted because it’s so hard to earn. Some soldiers have to attempt the course multiple times before they pass.

The badge isn’t just for Army medics. Doctors from other military branches can also put their training to the test and try to earn one as well.

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