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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Break in service

In January 2001 I ETS'd (End, Term of Service or Expiration, Term of Service) from the active Army.  I had no regrets and did not question my decision.  I had a family and a good job, a new house we built in August 2000, and could let my hair grow, and to an extent my facial hair.  At my new job I was still required to wear a M-40 series protective mask, or I should say, the possibility existed so I couldn't let the facial hair grow wildly out of control.  I was one of two EMT/Occupational Health Technicians at the U.S. Army Health Clinic located at Tooele Army Depot.  My command was located at Fort Carson, Colorado at Evans Army Community Hospital, the same command I had while in Dugway as an active Soldier.  The majority of my duties revolved around completing the several diagnostic procedures for physicals.  We completed eye exams, hearing tests, pulmonary function tests, blood work, and made sure all employees at Tooele Army Depot and Deseret Chemical Depot were within regulation to perform their jobs.  It wasn't difficult work, but it was necessary work.  It was a very good job and I had freedom and supervisors that trusted me and allowed me to work and complete projects I felt would benefit our operations.

I ended up building a database in Microsoft Access to help track employee physical requirements, I also built or created several forms/documents in Word and Excel for yearly screening purposes that would be linked to the database.  It wasn't a database on par with a computer programmer's skill, but it was effective none-the-less and I spent several extra days on the weekend in my office fine tuning the database until it was worth utilizing.  I have no idea what has happened to all that work I did during the five years I was there, or if any of my forms exist any longer.  Eventually we hired a nurse who had a degree in computer programming also, he tweaked the database and improved it's functionality and design.  The idea was to be able to generate monthly reports that the database would query from data entered into the database.  It could be queried by job description, expiration date, or several other values in the database.  I was happy with how it turned out, hopefully all that work was worthwhile and they continue to use the database, or a hybrid of it.

At that time I was very interested in how electronic record keeping could be the medical documentation avenue for the future, now, in 2012, it is.  Some institutions still use written records, but many have transitioned to the EMR (electronic medical record).  I feel these systems, the EMR, is how all record keeping will be completed and stored in the future.  It is easy to access, easy to find info (all EMRs should have a search option to find keywords in the record), and take up little space.  Unlike paper charts that we keep stuffing paper into. 

After September 11th 2001 I was looking for a reason to get back into the Army.  I couldn't go back active Army, I didn't think that would be fair to my wife and kids.  I also never considered the Guard or Reserves because during that time that I was completely against those organizations because I thought the active Army was superior in every way to the inactive components.  Eventually my fellow EMT/Occupational Health Tech, Walt Szarek, who retired form the active Army National Guard helped me enlist into the Army National Guard.  Walt was a Vietnam Veteran, had a break in service, and eventually ended up finishing out his enlisted service as an active Army National Guard soldier.  He was a recruiter for a time and one of his old recruiting partners swore me in in November 2001.  Just in time for the Utah Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.  It would be my first experience, but certainly not my last with the National Guard for which I have grown to know and love.  It would also be the beginning of a long journey, one that would lead me to Iraq, one that would lead me well into the future.

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