FORT HOOD, Texas - Medical laboratory technicians play a vital role in patient care even though their work is done behind the scenes.

But three of the Army's newest military medical laboratory technicians recently got their moment in the spotlight at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Jan. 5.

Pfcs. Austin Lewis, Charlene Perez and Jake Serrano-McEwen were recognized in front of friends, family and colleagues for successfully completing the Army's 12-month, two-phased MLT (68K) Advanced Individual Training program. The first six month phase of intense didactic learning is completed at the Military Education Training Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas and the second six months of hands-on, real-world training is completed at a major medical treatment facility.

In keeping with CRDAMC's 100 percent pass rate, all three Soldiers passed the American Society for Clinical Pathology national board exam and are certified to function as entry-level medical laboratory technicians in both the military and civilian sector.

The program provides education and training in the major disciplines of the clinical laboratory to include: clinical chemistry, hematology, immunohematology, immunology, microbiology, parasitology, urinalysis, blood donor center operations, specimen collection and processing, and laboratory operations/management.

Guest speaker Maj. Daniel Perrault, pathologist at CRDAMC, offered advice to the graduates.

"Millions of people around the world rely on professional laboratory specialists like you to help them heal or to save their lives. Your role is an important one, but likely does not come with fame, or glory or great wealth. Most of your patients won't give a thought to your existence. It is a thankless job," Perrault said. "Service to others is much nobler when it is done without expectation of special reward or gratitude. Service in healing others without expectation of special reward or gratitude is among the noblest forms of service you can do."

The idea of selfless service is what drove the graduates to the course.

"When I was in college, I decided to take a different route and join the Army. I always wanted to be a lab tech so this MOS (military occupation specialist) was an automatic choice for me," Perez said. "Now I get to do what I like while serving my country."

Lewis and Serrano-McEwen said their reasons for choosing medical lab specialist were similar to Perez's, adding that they liked the idea that they would be able to help their fellow Soldiers and families, yet work behind the scenes.

Upon completion of the program, graduates earn 60 college credits that may be applied towards an Associates of Science Degree from George Washington University.

Perez will be going to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas; Lewis will go to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and Serrano-McEwen to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri.

The 68K course is one of seven Phase II AIT training programs CRDAMC hosts. Occupational specialties offered range from radiology and physical therapy to laboratory specialist and occupational therapy.