Soldiers assigned in support of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea perform maintenance on a medical device.
Soldiers assigned in support of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea perform maintenance on a medical device. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT DETRICK, Md. -- The U.S. Army is making it easier for medical maintainers to train and affirm their abilities as subject-matter experts in their field.

As of April 1, Soldiers working as biomedical equipment specialists, known by the military occupational specialty code 68A, can now enroll in several types of job-related training with no out-of-pocket expense.

“For many years, Soldiers had to request training through their unit and see if the unit would pay for it,” Master Sgt. Wesley Ladlee said. “Now, Soldiers can just go in, click a few buttons and they’re funded for their test.”

Seeing an opportunity to improve the training process, Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Sanchez worked with the Army’s training partner -- the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, or AAMI -- to secure an agreement to become a recognized vendor through the new ArmyIgnitED credentialing program.

“Proficiency in our jobs translates to a quick turnaround time for scheduled services and repairs, and keeps all the medical equipment fully functional so we can provide the best casualty care on the battlefield,” said Sanchez, medical equipment branch non-commissioned officer in charge at Reynolds Army Health Clinic in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The effort was a success and now roughly 1,100 active-duty, reserve and National Guard Soldiers can access up to $4,000 worth of training and certification programs each year through AAMI.

Ladlee, the Army’s 68A senior enlisted adviser, said the certifications, which are based on industry best practices, make Soldiers more competitive in an ever-changing field where technology grows by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time.

“These exams cover so much more between technical competence, management, acquisitions, budgeting,” he said. “It really expands the military BIOMED’s capabilities and breadth of knowledge.”

Ladlee said the training agreement is for military only and does not cover the expense for civilian technicians.

Available courses include certified biomedical equipment technician (CBET), certified radiology equipment specialist (CRES) and certified healthcare technology manager (CHTM).

The duration of training depends on the course, but each generally includes a week of instruction and scheduled exam windows throughout the year, Ladlee said. Certifications are good for one year beyond the initial training year, then recertification is required every three years after that.

In addition to the 68As, warrant officers specialized as a health services maintenance technician, known as 670As, also can enroll in training through AAMI.

“It’s really important because as new technologies come about, we need to hone our craft and remain professionally relevant to future emerging technology,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Deanna Hughes, 670A consultant to the Army Surgeon General.

Hughes, the first female 670A to earn the Army’s highest warrant officer rank, credited Sanchez, Ladlee and other proponents of the program for helping to make it all happen.

“It really leaves a legacy for years for students and HTM professionals in the military to get their certifications and remain relevant,” she said. “It’s really just a great service to the U.S. military.”

For 670As who use the program, a new certification does require an additional service requirement of two years. Recertification, however, does not carry any further service time obligations.

To enroll in training, log into ArmyIgnitED and click on “Add Credential.” From there, select 68A as your MOS, specify if this is for a new credential or re-certification, and then choose the desired course.

“It’s not a requirement, however it does serve as a vehicle to increase their technical skills,” Ladlee said. “This ultimately codifies that a biomedical equipment specialist is not just a maintainer, but an expert in medical device maintenance and safety.”