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The Medical Corps assignment process.


One of the most anxiety provoking processes throughout a military career is the assignment process. Everyone has heard horror stories of last minute changes and individuals assigned to their last choices. In this article, we will help reduce some of that anxiety by detailing how the assignment process works for the Medical Corps (MC). This article will discuss the roles of MC Branch, the Office of The Surgeon General (OTSG), the consultants to the Surgeon General, and the Officer Distribution Plan (ODP) in the process. It will also provide information on what each officer can do to improve their own chances of getting the assignment of their choice.

All assignments start with the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Personnel Proponency Directorate. Their role is to provide technical advice to the U.S. Army G-I to come up with the appropriate authorizations for all the AMMEDD branches in the Army's Objective Force. The end result is a manning document known as the Personnel Manning Authorization Document. This document provides the authorizations against which all assignments are made. It is important to remember that the presence of an authorization (or a space) does not necessarily mean that an officer will be assigned to that position (a face).

The AMEDD Officer Distribution Plan

The next step in the process is to make a corporate decision as to which of these authorized spaces will get filled. The Surgeon General is responsible for the distribution of all AMEDD officers. He must fulfill the Chief of Staff of the Army's priorities of fill while meeting the requirements of the medical mission. The procedure that aligns these priorities is the ODP process. The ODP is designed to ensure the best utilization of MC Officers across the MEDCOM and other commands.

The ODP applies only to the distribution of officers controlled by the MEDCOM commander. The Army staff Modification Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) units at 100%. In the AMEDD, this means that each authorized MTOE slot is either filled with an assigned officer or MEDCOM fills it through the Professional Filler System. The ODP conference discusses personnel assigned to MTOE units, but does not have control over their fill.

The process starts in the summer, after the summer permanent change of station moves are complete. The consultants contact the physicians in their specialty to determine who will leave the service, who wants to move, and who wants to apply for Graduate Medical Education (GME). They work closely with the career managers in MC Branch to determine what the distributable inventory of physicians will be for the next assignment cycle. The distributable population is those physicians available for assignment into clinical positions in that specialty. It is calculated from the total inventory of trained physicians In that specialty who are not retiring or leaving the Army minus those officers who are in GME, administrative (60A or O5A) positions and those in 62B (field surgeon) and 61N (flight sturgeon) positions.

The next step for the consultant is to match this number against the known vacancies. This creates a "straw man" for a proposed distribution. This initial distribution plan is entered into the Medical Occupational Data System (MODS) by MC Branch. The distributable inventory is almost always less than the number of positions available. "The ODP process attempts to find the most mission-effective distribution for these scarce assets.

After the consultant creates the straw man, the major commands and Regional Medical Commands (RMCs) view it on MODS. The medical treatment facilities can request additional assets. These requests get forwarded to the RMCs for their evaluation. The RMCs then compile all their requests and forward them to the MEDCOM Strength Management Office and the Health Services Division (HSD), Human Resources Command. The career managers and consultants evaluate the requests and prepare to discuss them at the ODP Planning Conference.

In early December, OTSG and HSD host the ODP Planning Conference. The Deputy Surgeon General hosts the conference and the commander or his representative from each RMC, 18th MEDCOM and the FORSCOM surgeon attend. The conference lasts 2 full days and consists of briefings given by the MC Consultants to TSG. Each consultant briefs initial distribution plan for their specialty, and addresses the requests for additional assets submitted by the various commands. During briefings and the following discussion, representatives from HSD, MEDCOM, and OTSG take notes and provide information as needed. The goal is to resolve all distribution issues before the consultant leaves the room. Each consultant prepares and gets approval for a contingency plan for distribution if the specialty ends up wide more or fewer assets than in the distributable inventor.

At the completion of the ODP Conference, the career managers and consultants discuss any changes in the distribution plan. The career managers update the distribution plan in MODS. The MACOMs and RMCs are able to view the changes to ensure that all of the changes have been made. Once the new distribution plan is confirmed, then HSD prepares a final briefing for TSG.

The U.S. Army Surgeon General is the final approval authority for the distribution of medical officers. The entire distribution planning process culminates with a brief to TSG. The timing of the brief is currently the middle of January. Once TSG approves the distribution plan, then the consultants and career managers know what positions they will have to fill.

It is important to remember that die entire process, to this point, has focused only on authorizations and which ones will be filled--the spaces side of the process. After the ODP receives approval from TSG, the consultants and career managers start on the faces side of the process--deciding which officer will fill which position.

Assignment Process

The consultant, now start placing officers against the slots approved in the ODP. These assignments are made based on the following priorities. First are the needs of the Army. Second, is the officer's professional development. The final priority are the officer's preferences. For this reason, it is important for all officers to communicate both their preferences and their long-term, career goals to their consultant or career manager. The consultant and career manager work closely together to ensure that each position receives the right officer.

During this time, the administrative or 60A positions get filled as well. These are the leadership and administrative positions. These are important both for career development and to provide medical staff work and leadership within the MEDCOM and the rest of the Army. Examples of these positions include die noncommand select list command billets, the division, corps, and MACOM surgeons, and the Deputy Commander for Clinical Services. Most of these positions are for LTCs and COLs. They demonstrate to boards a commitment to leadership and to the AMEDD. These jobs are posted on the MC Branch website at https:// This site is a wealth of information regarding jobs, boards, personnel records and courses. It also includes contact information for the career managers and branch chief.

After the consultants and branch chief make up their slates, the career managers cut Requests for Orders or RFOs and send them to the individual stations. The standard is to get the RFOs to the officers at least 90 days before their report date. This allows the local personnel office to cut orders and for the officer to make all the arrangements necessary to move to his or her next duty station. The vast majority of moves occur in the summer as that is least disruptive to families and fits in with the GME schedules. In certain circumstances, a high priority position or a GME failure requires an off-cycle move. After the summer moves, the cycle starts over again.

Keys to Success

Now that we have explained the process, how does an individual physician end up with the position that best fits their desires, family, and career. First, keep communicating with your consultant and career manager. If they don't know your needs and desires, they won't be able to take them into account. Second, be flexible. Not everyone can go to Fort Carson or Fort Lewis. If you don't have some realistic back-up choices, you may end up at your last choice assignment. Third, remember the first priority is the Army's needs. We will try to match your desires with the Army's needs, but in case of a tie, the needs of the Army will win out. Finally, don't forget some of the nonclinical and nontraditional approaches. One of the advantages of being in the Army is that there is no financial penalty for trying a different career path, whether it is administrative, teaching, operational, or research. Many of the current leadership never thought they would be where they are today, and wouldn't be, if they hadn't taken chances and tried new and challenging jobs.

COL Jonathan H. Jaffin, MC, USA ([dagger])

LTC Michael LeDoux, MS, USA ([double dagger])

MAJ Thomas Davenport. MS, USA ([dagger]) ([double dagger])

([dagger]) Medical Corps, U.S. Army. Colonel Jaffin is Chief, Medical Corps Branch, Human Resources Command, Alexandria, VA.

The following authors are assigned to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, Alexandria, VA:

([double dagger]) Medical Service Corps, U.S. Army. Lieutenant Colonel LeDoux.

([dagger]) ([double dagger]) Medical Service Corps, U.S. Army. Major Davenport.
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Author:Jaffin, Jonathan H.; LeDoux, Michael; Davenport, Thomas
Publication:U.S. Army Medical Department Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Previous Article:Army Medical Department continuum of medical education.
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