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Steamboat Springs Army medic Sgt. Ryan Urban, of Steamboat Springs, already was a combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he tackled the rigorous field test for the Expert Field Medical Badge about 15 miles southwest of Fort Carson earlier this month.
When the colored smoke cleared, the cries of men feigning wounds had died out, and the final 12-mile march had ended, Urban was one of just six soldiers among 187 who qualified for the coveted black badge. The soldiers came from across the country to take the test in the cold, dry mountainous terrain above 5,700 feet near Colorado Springs that is described as bearing a resemblance to terrain in Afghanistan.
A release describing the field testing for the Expert Field Medical Badge said the intent was to make it approximate the reality of caring for the wounded in combat operations.
The Army reported: “Grenade simulators shook the ground while colored smoke canisters concealed three concrete buildings where role-playing soldiers scream for medical attention. First the medics returned fire at an enemy sniper and then treated a soldier’s (mock) bullet wounds.”
Reached by telephone Thursday, Sgt. Urban, a 2004 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, said although the field test was difficult, after treating wounded soldiers in combat during the past five years, dealing with mock wounds during the test was not the hardest part for him.
“That part was pretty easy,” Urban said. “The part that caused people to go out was the land navigation test. We were on a pretty tough course and that’s a skill that you have to keep up or you lose it pretty quick.”
Senior noncommissioned officers administering the test said they expected as many as 30 candidates to qualify, but the standards are meant to identify the most competent army medics in the country.
“If you have the EFMB, you’re really at the top of your game,” Master Sgt. Daniel Traver, of the 10th Combat Support Hospital, said in a release.
“The EFMB is a competition to see which medic is the best,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Moody, also of the 10th Combat Support Hospital.
I wish that I could say that I know Ryan Urban. The best I can do is to tell you that he sounded very capable and self-assured during a brief telephone interview — good qualities for someone who has to take charge and save lives under extreme duress. His parents, Stan and Jean Urban, keep it low key, but you can tell from talking to them that they are justifiably proud.
Urban, 25, was 18 and old enough to volunteer for the North Routt Fire Department when he was a senior, Stan Urban said.
“I remember he got up and answered a page one night and said, ‘I’m going to take this call,’ and he ended up driving the ambulance,” Stan Urban said. “He came back and said, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”
Ryan’s mother said her son definitely had harrowing experiences while serving overseas in Iraq for a year and Afghanistan for three or four months.
“I know he’s 25, but it’s still amazing what they see at such a young age,” she said.
The final test at Fort Carson was a 12-mile march while the soldiers carried field equipment and a fully stocked rucksack. The soldiers were required to complete the hike within three hours.
Urban’s wife, Deborah, and 2-year-old daughter were waiting for him at the finish line as he completed the march with 13 minutes to spare.
The Army wrote: “Elisabeth Urban shouted, ‘That’s my daddy’ as her father finished.”
Urban said he intends to remain in the Army and is intent on working toward promotions. It’s easy to predict that he will reach his goals.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com