JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –Educators from the Chicago, Illinois, area visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) during a larger tour of JBSA hosted by the Chicago Army Recruiting Battalion, March 30, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
During two half-day sessions at the MEDCoE, the 35 educators and six recruiters toured the veterinary lab at the Department of Veterinary Science and received an overview about animal care technicians and food inspection. They also visited the Departments of Dental Science and Preventive Health Services, received a command brief and participated in a question-and-answer session with the MEDCoE Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster.
“We are strategic partners,” LeMaster told the attentive group that consisted of counselors, teachers, professors, principals and other high school and college level administrators.
LeMaster relayed a story about his time as a “mediocre student” growing up in Washington State. His guidance counselor encouraged him to become a garbage collector rather than pursue college. Despite that advice, he decided to look into college scholarship options through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) because his father felt the structure would be good for him.
35 years after he was commissioned through ROTC as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, LeMaster is now a Maj. Gen. in the Army and serves as 19th Chief of the Army Medical Service Corps in addition to commanding the MEDCoE.
“We all have the responsibility to help young people discover all of the opportunities that are open to them and live up to their full potential,” LeMaster explained.
The Army has made it a priority to recruit quality officers and enlisted Soldiers by identifying and assessing the right talent, skills and credentials needed to help win our nation's wars and then come home safely. MEDCoE habitually invites educators and students to tour the facilities so they may learn about the countless opportunities available to high school students, college students and civilian providers. Educator tours were converted to virtual events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MEDCoE resumed in-person educator tours in June 2021 and in-person student tours in February of this year.
The general, who has been in command since January 2020, described the many pathways to service in Army medicine to include enlistment, ROTC, West Point, the Long Term Health Education and Training (LTHET) program, Green to Gold Scholarships and the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). No matter the source, the Army offers over 60 science and medicine career options: everything from optometrists, physician assistants and surgeons to medical laboratory, dental, medical lab and combat medic specialists.
“The military is a path, a series of opportunities and adventures that are both known and unknown,” LeMaster said. Soldiers are taught discipline, leadership skills and important values that will make them more productive members of society in the future. “We are looking for good character. We have a limited population of young adults who can serve due to factors like obesity, drugs, mental health issues or legal problems.”
According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, less than a quarter of the eligible U.S. population meets the requirements to serve in the Army. At the same time, about 75% of today’s young adults admit they know little to nothing about service in the Active Army or part-time opportunities in the Army Reserves or the Army National Guard. As a result, the propensity to choose military service has declined in recent years and is currently at 10%, which is the lowest since 2007. The Army, with over 485,000 troops serving on active duty, remains America’s largest fighting force.
MEDCoE, the Army’s largest civilian-accredited service school, trains and educates 30,000-40,000 Soldiers annually through 192 health-related programs of instruction. They offer 18 degree programs to include three enlisted degree programs, six master’s degree programs and nine doctoral programs. Several programs are consistently ranked top 10 by U.S. News and World Report including health administration, physician assistant and anesthesia nursing.
“Service is not for everyone,” LeMaster said. “But if your students thrive in a structured and disciplined environment like I did, they can seize the opportunity and really enjoy it.”
LeMaster described how the Army enables success, offers stability and security and life-long learning and provides a safe and healthy workplace. In addition to a basic salary, Soldiers can receive up to $50,000 in enlistment incentives. Soldiers also get financial allowances to offset the cost of housing and meals, 30 vacation days annually, comprehensive health care, money for education, family services, and even career support after honorable service.
He hopes the visitors will depart Fort Sam Houston with a shared purpose of informing their students about the many benefits the Army and Army Medicine have to offer and to help overcome the disconnect between the Army and potential recruits.
“The armed services should be viewed as a first choice that leads to great opportunity,” LeMaster concluded.
To learn more about careers available in Army medicine, visit www.goarmy.com/amedd.