By Amy Guckeen Tolson, Redstone Rocket Assistant EditorMarch 16, 2017
The Navy has its ships, the Air Force has its planes, but when it comes to the weapon of choice for the Army, Sgt. Chun Kim knows that he, the Soldier, is it -- which is why it is the Army's number one priority that he, and all others who wear the uniform, are ready to fight.
As of Dec. 5, 2016, the Army began executing an Army-wide reset to ensure that all Soldiers, including National Guard and Reserve, are medically ready to deploy, with a deadline of completion of March 31. Of the 144,000 Soldiers considered non-deployable for medical and dental reasons, 55,000 of those are classified as such because they need to have their annual periodic health assessment or dental exam completed, according to the Army Medical Command.
Soldiers who have not had their annual exams completed are given a Medical Readiness Classification (MRC) of 4, medical and dental status unknown. The reset places a mission on MEDCOM's medical treatment facilities, including Redstone's Fox Army Health Center, to complete those exams and remove Soldiers from their MRC 4 status.
"The intent is to care for our Soldiers," Fox Army Health Center Commander Col. Michael Oshiki said. "It's two-pronged -- it's making sure our Soldiers are deployable, and that they're getting the care they should be getting. They go hand in hand. Readiness and health are intimately intertwined. You've got to be healthy to be able to deploy."
Oshiki and staff, with the help of commanders across Team Redstone, have taken the challenge seriously, so much so that only 1.6 percent of the Soldiers Fox is responsible for have an MRC 4 classification.
"Military readiness is a little bit different than just a physical at the doctor," Oshiki said. "In order to go to certain areas of the world you cannot be taking certain medications, you have to have certain immunizations. If a civilian goes to the doctor and they say, 'Your eyes look a little off, you may want to consider glasses,' OK, I can still drive, but in the military if your vision is not good you can't shoot -- there's bigger issues with that.
"A periodic health assessment is more in-depth. We also ask a number of behavioral health screening questions. It's 2017, we've been at war for a long time. There are Soldiers who are carrying some rocks in their rucksacks. The behavioral health questions and screening are designed to go after that, and to get Soldiers linked into behavioral health care if they need it."
Soldiers can check their MRC through their Army Knowledge Online account, under "My Medical." If they are anything other than green, Oshiki said, they need to be seen. In addition to being able to check their status through AKO, Soldiers receive an automated reminder that they are due for their PHA, as well as a personal phone call from Fox staff. With a little more than two weeks before the reset is due to end, Soldiers due for their PHA can call or walk in to Fox's Blue Team to begin the process; staff will take it from there to ensure it is complete.
"This is designed not to be a one shot deal," Oshiki said. "It's specifically intended to be a reset so that we can establish a baseline and then you don't let it expire again. We're getting caught up on all the folks that are overdue, and then Gen. (Mark) Milley's intent is we don't ever go there again."