News: Resiliency is key to officer striving for EFMB
Story by Sgt. Austan Owen
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – At first glance, Capt. Molly Byrnes may not look like the prototypical Army officer. Her petite frame, laid back persona and ever-present smile hides a thirst to prove herself. For Byrnes, earning one of the most sought after badges in the Army will put her in an elite category.
Byrnes, assigned to the 62nd Medical Brigade, 56th Multifunction Medical Battalion, recently participated in the EFMB certification on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 7 to 12.
The Expert Field Medical Badge is an Army decoration that medical personnel must earn through tests that try their knowledge of general soldier tasks, medical expertise, ability to perform under stress and their physical abilities. During the EFMB certification candidates must pass 33 of 42 tasks spread out among three training lanes, pass a written test, traverse a land navigation course and a complete a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours.
Throughout her life Byrnes has strived to succeed at her goals with a dogged resolve and unflinching work ethic. Earning the coveted Expert Field Medical Badge is one achievement that has eluded her so far.
In 2011 she tried for the EFMB as a first lieutenant. She failed the land navigation portion of the testing. This didn’t set well with Byrnes so she evaluated her faults and, over the next two years worked to improve her skills.
She said that land navigation has been trouble for her since college, she even had to repeat some cadet training exercises.
“I’ve known that it’s my Achilles’ heel,” Byrnes said. “The EFMB has created a catalyst … for me to strive for something in order to get better at this skill I’m not good at. To me this represents a microcosm of everything in the Army.”
Learning land navigation and training for the EFMB aren’t the only challenges Byrnes has faced in her life. The Attleboro, Mass., native grew up with a love for gymnastics and soccer. After high school she wanted to continue to play soccer during college at a competitive level, which she accomplished.
Byrnes went on to become a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy. Her immediate goal wasn’t to become an Army officer, rather to play soccer and excel academically.
“Playing soccer helped me learn how to control my emotions and maintain my composure,” Byrnes said. Both are essential tools to pass the physically and mentally challenging EFMB she added.
For Byrnes and others this was their second or even third attempt at earning the badge. “So not only are we coming back for revenge we get to take a closer look at how it’s ran.”
She feels that earning the EFMB represents a validation in her leadership ability and it represents what is possible when someone sets a goal and works toward it.
Byrnes remained resolute while participating in the qualification event emphasizing that no matter what happens, even if she doesn’t get the badge, she will continue to try until she succeeds. Saying that she will continue to evaluate herself and incorporate in her daily life the training and learning materials she needs to improve.
“If this wasn’t challenging to me then it wouldn’t mean as much,” Byrnes said.
Byrnes didn’t earn the EFMB this year, failing to successfully complete the tactical combat casualty care portion of the event.
Even though she failed to earn the badge, she received only praise from her superiors and peers for her efforts in the EFMB and as an officer.
“She is one of the most determined officers I’ve ever met in my 20 years in the military,” said Maj. Brendon Watson, test board chairman of the EFMB. “She is the epitome of resiliency and determination and that is exactly what we are looking for in every Soldier in the United States Army today.”
She was not alone, only 33 of 246 candidates earned their EFMB, 13.4 percent of the field.
“The EFMB is exactly that, expert. This is not the good enough badge,” Watson said. “Even if you did everything to standard it’s called expert for a reason.”
Byrnes continues to show her strength as she focuses on the next EFMB qualification.
“Though disappointed with the outcome, her conversations have been about what do I need to focus on now, so that when I engage the EFMB again I can be successful,” Watson said. “That’s the difference between Molly and most people.”
Byrnes assures that she will learn more, study more and practice harder for her next chance at the badge.
“I’ve learned a lot on this journey,” she said. “Trying twice is character building, three times will be even more so.”