Why is MEDPROS important? Many Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School have probably heard this question throughout the hallways and training areas across Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall. While many may associate the term with white noise and PowerPoint slides, I'm here to ensure you that MEDPROS -- formally known as the Medical Protection System -- is subject to significant command emphasis across the military because it helps us ensure that our most vital weapons are in top condition: our Soldiers.

MEDPROS is the Army's automated database designed to meet Department of Defense requirements in maintaining unit and individual medical readiness. It is designed to provide commanders with a real-time, world-wide operational system to manage the medical readiness and deployability of their unit. MEDPROS provides commanders at all levels with the capability to track medical and dental readiness by unit, individual or task force. MEDPROS captures data for Soldiers in all Army components -- active-duty, the National Guard and Army Reserve, and civilian personnel -- as well as all sister services.

MEDPROS is a database that gives your doctor, your unit surgeon and your commander the ability to review your medical preparedness to deploy and serve your nation. For commanders it's extremely important, and helpful, to see if their Soldiers have, for example, had a dental exam in the last 12 months, need an eye exam or mask inserts, or have not gotten the most up-to-date immunizations.

At SWCS, this is particularly essential. As an organization, we're proud to maintain a close relationship with the active special-operations units within the U.S. Special Operations Command. One of the reasons our training and education stays relevant is because our instructors frequently rotate in and out of the operational force. When it comes time for each of our instructors to return to a team or unit, it's important that they go fully prepared to conduct their missions; this includes medical preparedness.

Special-operations teams are small, and each assigned Soldier must be in peak physical condition. For example, one Soldier could make up as much as 33 percent of a tactical military information support team's strength--and because of how and where Army special-operations forces conduct their missions, if you haven't taken care of yourself when the time was right, you are up a specific kind of creek without a paddle when a toothache knocks you out of commission half-way through a deployment.

Similarly, the work done within SWCS is crucially important to maintaining and building our Army's special-operations force. MEDPROS allows us to track Soldiers' check-ups, and apply preventative measures now to avoid extended period of absence in the future. It is each individual Soldier's responsibility to maintain their health, and it is each leader's responsibility to monitor their unit's readiness--MEDPROS is the way Army leaders, and their leaders, and their leaders' leaders, do this.

So, the next time you think, "I don't have time to go to the dentist right now," remember that to an extent it's not about you or your time--it's about your professional responsibility as a Soldier. It's about being part of a team and not putting your brothers and sisters at risk. It's about trust, loyalty, leadership and selflessness. Leaders and commanders must ensure their Soldiers are ready to deploy, fight and win, and the individual must have the maturity to take care of themselves. Otherwise, what good are we to our Nation, our Army and each other?