Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Guest Blogger: Oliver Mullins: AFOS Local Liaison

There are many benefits to practicing optometry in the US Military, not the least of which is getting all (or at least a serious chunk) of your school paid for through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).  The first step for anyone interested in getting this scholarship is contacting a Health Professions Recruiter in the branch of the military that you are interested in serving in.  The Navy offers a 4 year scholarship while the Army and Air Force both offer 3 and 2 year scholarships.  This is by far the easiest step in the process.  The recruiters are great sources of information and guidance throughout the process.  The second step is to fill out an application.  This is not as easy as it sounds!  I was not aware of the extraordinary amount of paperwork involved when I received what seemed to be a phone book sized application.  Don’t be discouraged though if I did it anyone canJ.  Some of what needs to be included in the application is background information, family information, employment/housing/schooling history, letters of recommendation, and a questionnaire on why you want to be in the military.   Then it is onto the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).  What an experience that is!  The physical requirements for the program are:  be within a certain height/weight or be within a certain body fat % (measured by taping your waist and neck), pass a hearing/vision screening, pass a physical examination (you cannot have certain medical problems like asthma), and walk in your underwear like a duck (seriously).  After you pass the physical portion (and after all of your paperwork goes through) the last step is to be interviewed by an optometrist in the branch of service you are applying for.  Then all you can do is wait.  After you are accepted into the program, you are then commissioned as an officer (an O1 or 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force) which is an awesome and humbling experience; you also sign the papers, officially becoming a member of the HPSP!  After that it is life as normal (mostly).  While in school you will receive a stipend of a little over $2000 a month (in addition to your tuition/books/equipment paid for).  If you have the 4 or 3 year scholarship, you will also probably do your officers training (the officer’s version of boot camp) during the summer between 1st and 2nd year.  If you don’t do it during that summer (or if you have the 2 year scholarship) you will complete the training after graduation.  Other than that your only requirements during school are to pass classes/clinic and graduate!  After you graduate you will be promoted to an O3 (or a Captain in the Air Force).  The payback requirement is either 1 year of service for every one year you have the scholarship for, or 3 years active service (whichever is more) and 5 years of Inactive Ready Reserve (which basically means you keep your ID and uniform, and if WWIII breaks out you’ll get called back into service. This is  NOT the same as active reserve( which is where you serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year).  Once again serving in the United States Military can be a rewarding experience, and who knows, it may turn out to be the career of your dreams!  Good Luck on your journey and don’t hesitate to contact me if you want any other information!
Oliver Mullins
AFOS Local Liaison
2nd Lieutenant USAF
Class of 2014
Recruiters Contact information :  The recruiters change all the time, so this information is constantly in flux, so if you find this information is out of date don’t hesitate to contact me or look at the AFOS Board!
Air Force
TSgt Aaron Akridge-(253) 874-0600 , aaron.akridge@us.af.mil
Army
SSG Prieto-Rodriguez- 877-722-2305, JODIE.PRIETORODRIGUEZ@usarec.army.mil
Navy
Erik D. Jensens, MS, RN, L COR NC-503-258-2407, Jensene@cnrc.navy.mil