Story and photos by Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern
***image1***The trail to the prestigious Expert Field Medic Badge just got four hours closer for more than 1,200 Soldiers stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Training Support Center Kaiserslautern showed off its new litter-obstacle course July 19 by sending 13 medics through the trail at the Breitenwald Training Area, minutes away from Landstuhl’s main gate. Previously, the closest fixed course was in Grafenwöhr.
“This (course) was actually an incentive of good NCOs who answered the question on why can’t we have a course to standard right here in the Kaiserslautern garrison since we have one of the highest concentrations of medical personnel in Europe,” said Capt. Joel Neuenschwander, Landstuhl’s “C” Company commander, who received his badge in 2000 and is responsible for more than 500 medical Soldiers.
The half-mile-long course is only one requirement for the badge, which Captain Neuenschwander said is equivalent to the expert infantry badge for the medical community. He said the course is not just for the badge competition but instills teamwork, standards, leadership, communication, attention to detail and physical stamina.
“Standards are what keep Soldiers alive on the battlefield,” said Captain Neuenschwander, who is a medical evacuation officer and pilot. “This course will help train individuals so they do not cause further injury to the patient as they are maneuvering them from the point of injury to the medical evacuation platform.”
Good communication skills are essential when trudging through the wooded course with its narrow, uphill, downhill and cross terrain.
“I lost my footing a couple of times, but with the (litter) team listening, we were able to maintain holding the litter while we were going down or even up the hill,” said Sgt. Brian Best, from LRMC, who was one of the front litter bearers at the course’s grand opening.
***image2***Man-made obstacles such as high and low walls, low wire and water-filled trench are also testing the litter-bearers’ skills and endurance.
“The low-wire I think is one of the best obstacles because you can adjust the height of the wire (for Soldiers’ physiques), and it lifts in four different panels so you are able to even out the dirt,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hector Rivera, Landstuhl’s “C” Company NCO and one of the supervisors who presented the idea to TSC Kaiserslautern in 2004.
Construction began on the $63,000 course in January after approval from the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, which funds and provides oversight for all Army training areas.