FORT POLK, La. –
Staff Sgt. Tabitha Moore, a combat medic from Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Emergency Department, recently achieved three major milestones in her career. The junior noncommissioned officer won the BJACH NCO of the year competition, was selected as one of the Regional Health Command Central Best Junior NCOs, and earned her Expert Field Medical Badge in recent months.
Lt. Col. Michelle O’Neill, chief nurse in charge of the emergency department said Moore has been highly motivated to excel as a Soldier since arriving to BJACH.
“She took on the challenges presented to her, whether it be Soldier boards, physical training or preparing for a highly coveted badge like the EFMB,” she said. “She also spent many hours encouraging and coaching some of our junior Soldiers in their efforts to compete as well. As a senior leader, I personally loved seeing her take on all of these challenges and exceed the standards set forth. She has unlimited potential.”
O’Neill said despite minor setbacks along the way, her tenacity and competitive spirit drove her to success and are an inspiration to her Soldiers, peers and leaders.
Originally from California, Moore enlisted in the Army in 2016.
She said she joined the Army for the educational benefits. She chose 68W, combat medic as her military occupational specialty because of her childhood aspirations to work in the medical field.
Her first assignment was at 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Afterward, she accepted an intra-post transfer to the BJACH emergency department in 2019.
While stationed at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Moore deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in support of a border mission. She also deployed to the Virgin Islands as part of the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force – Medical Command to support the COVID-19 community vaccination mission. Moore said she found the vaccination mission professionally rewarding.
“I was notified 72 hours before I was supposed to leave, but I was excited because I love helping people,” she said. “It was an eye-opening experience for me. I was on a beautiful tropical island surrounded by seaside resorts but as I traveled inland I saw the extreme poverty many were living in.”
Before her vaccination mission Moore had begun competing in NCO of the month and quarter boards but was unable to compete for the NCO of the year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 community vaccination deployment.
“I started participating in competition boards at the encouragement of my NCOs who said it would enhance my career,” she said. “I won my first board, and kept studying and kept going back, winning each time.”
She finally had her chance to compete and win the BJACH NCO of the Year competition in February.
“I enjoy field training, physical fitness and competing in competition boards. I think they are a lot of fun and allow me the opportunity to learn new skills,” she said. “I’m motivated by the challenge and I like to win.”
Moore said she studied and prepared a lot for the NCO of the Year admitting the biggest challenge was the weather.
“We did a lot of ruck marches, and we were caught in a thunderstorm the first day,” she said. “Everything was wet; we did the Yarbrough Mile soaking wet, and we were required to walk to every event.”
Moore knew winning NCO of the Year would solidify her spot on at the Best Leader competition and that motivated her to prevail.
Next, Moore went to Fort Bliss, Texas, to compete with a squad of Soldiers from BJACH in the Regional Health Command-Central Best Leader Competition.
Capt. Christopher Julian, chief of occupational therapy for BJACH was part of her team and said Moore was a fierce competitor who deserved to win the best Junior NCO title.
“There are not enough words to describe how great Staff Sergeant Moore is as a teammate,” he said. “She is the ultimate competitor and warrior.”
Julian said Moore was the first female to cross the finish line after a 15-mile foot march with a 45 pound pack.
“Even after I witnessed the blood and wounds on her feet following that challenge, she never had an ounce of quit in her,” he said. “She was my motivation, she kept me in the fight every step of the competition. I attribute BJACH’s Best Squad success to her. She leads from the front in all situations. She has an altruistic character and exemplifies what it is to be a Soldier and a non-commissioned officer.”
Moore said the first ruck march was the most difficult part of the Best Leader Competition.
“On the second day of the competition we began a road march that turned out to be 15-miles long. I don’t know if I wore the wrong socks or what, but my feet were torn up,” she said. “After I hobbled across the finish line I was taken to the ambulance where they suggested tincture benzoin to treat my feet.”
According to O’Neill tincture benzoin is issued and used in the U.S. military to treat blisters. A common treatment utilized by medics in the U.S. Army is to drain the fluid from a blister and then inject enough compound tincture of benzoin into the void to glue the blister to the underlying skin, to serve as a local antiseptic, and to prevent further abrasion or loss of skin. This is commonly known as a "hot shot" amongst military personnel due to the extreme burning sensation that will be experienced for several moments when the tincture is applied.
Moore said the treatment was extremely painful but she knew the rest of the team was looking up to her and she didn’t want to let them down.
“I bit the brim of my hat in the back of the ambulance and screamed as they treated my feet. Once it was over I went right into the day and night land navigation courses,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it, but I knew the junior Soldiers were watching me, and I just couldn’t quit. I knew they were hurting, too, and if I quit it would affect their morale.”
Moore said overall the entire competition was a lot of fun despite the pain of her injuries.
“The most rewarding part for me was watching the Joes, our junior enlisted teammates. For them, it was their first competition and I loved cheering them on,” she said. “We had to trauma-bond and embrace the suck at times, but I know they had a lot of fun too.”
Moore said her accomplishments are motivational to her Soldiers.
“It makes me more confident in myself, knowing that I am competent and proficient in Soldier and medical tasks,” she said. “I can pass my knowledge on and mentor junior Soldiers. I’ve pushed a lot of my Soldiers to compete in boards. They are usually nervous and unsure, so it helps them to see me do it too. Because I’ve won several of these competitions, they trust me when I tell them what they need to study and work on in order to compete and win.”
A few days after the RHC-C competition Moore went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Expert Field Medical Badge testing.
“After I won the NCO of Year Board and before the regional competition, I went to EFMB at [JBSA] Fort Sam [Houston] and I failed,” she said. “I was extremely disappointed that I didn’t earn it. I really let it get in my head.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Shavonda Devereaux, senior enlisted advisor for BJACH said she recognized Moore’s defeat and self-doubt.
“We were at the engagement skills trainer and I recognized that Staff
Sergeant Moore was a little down,” she said. “I knew what she came up short on during her first attempt at the EFMB, but I also knew she was the type of Soldier who could recognize her shortfalls and quickly adapt and overcome them.”
Devereaux said the unit put some systems in place to reinforce those skills she needed work on in preparation for the EFMB.
“I reaffirmed with her that if there was any way I could get her to the next EFMB testing event I would,” she said. “I had faith in her and her ability to go out and get after it and earn the badge.”
Devereaux said it’s all about having trust and faith in your Soldiers and their abilities.
“Staff Sergeant Moore did exactly what I thought she would,” she said. “She dug deep, challenged the badge and she earned it.”
Moore said Deveraux got her in to the next available EFMB testing event and warned her it would be a quick turn around after the Best Leader Competition at Fort Bliss.
“I literally had time to come home and do laundry before I left again,” she said.
Moore said she refused to fail, and was focused on passing the EFMB the second time around.
According to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence website, the EFMB is special skill award recognizing the exceptional competence and outstanding performance of Army Medical Department Corps personnel.
Earning the badge consists of a written exam, a 12-mile foot march, the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, an evacuation lane, a scenario based tactical combat casualty care lane, and a warrior skills lane with combined tasks shared with Expert Infantryman and Expert Soldier Badge testing.
Moore was six of 44 Soldiers who passed all of the tests and earned the EFMB.
“The only reason I passed the second time is because I partnered up with two other Soldiers (Spc. Connor Crisafi, combat medic, Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colorado and 1st Lt. Sean Kratchman, occupational therapist, 85th Combat Operational Stress Control, 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas,) who I had met at Fort Sam when I attempted to earn my EFMB the first time,” she said “We stuck together. During all of our free time we went over the lanes together and practiced and studied and prepared.”
Moore will be leaving Fort Polk for Fort Drum, New York, soon and will be unable to represent RHC-C at the Best Leader Competition, nor will she be able to represent BJACH at the JRTC and Fort Polk NCO of the Year board but she’s still motivated to complete other challenges and goals.
“I’ve got my sites on the Sergeant Audie Murphy Board next,” she said. “I also want the Air Assault badge.”
Moore plans to make a career of the Army and encourages other Soldiers to compete whenever possible.
“There are so many benefits to participating in competitions,” she said. “I won awards which helped with promotion points; I’ve read a lot of regulations, increased my general Army knowledge and I’ve learned a lot about myself and how resilient I can be. It feels good knowing I’ve done something really hard and I persevered and I won.”
Moore said she loves being an NCO and hopes to be a command sergeant major someday.
Devereaux said the recent achievement says a lot about Moore as a person, a medic and a Soldier.
“Staff Sergeant Moore completed three back-to-back events that really challenged and tested her intestinal fortitude,” she said. “She had the will to win; the hunger to achieve and demonstrate what it is to be Army Medicine and Army Strong.”