Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Military Occupational Speciality: 91V10.

Life in the Respiratory Therapy school where I went was and entirely different experience than the standard college Respiratory course I think I am safe to say. I only say this because I did my schooling in the U.S. Army and with this post I am going to try and explain what my school was like. Now keep in mind that I didn't go through the college course for Respiratory Therapy at all so I really cannot compare the two with personnel experience but my comparison comes from other RT's who went the standard route of college. So here is my story of sorts on how I did it.

This all started when I was over in Mogadishu Somalia and my first 4 years of enlistment was coming to a end and I had some choices to make: Stay in as a Medic, change MOS (Job), or get out and be a civilian. I wasn't ready to get out(ETS is acronym for basically get out) yet and I figured that I should go for more schooling if I wanted to become more marketable if I ever decided that I wanted to ETS in the future. At this point I started to look in the books to see what other Job (MOS) choices there were available and I found 91W or Nuclear Med Tech which sounded interesting plus it was a year school in Baltimore Maryland at a Naval base which would be a nice change of scenery, so I was able to get the necessary reference letters and applied for the class. Didn't get it, and actually a guy in my Unit got the last slot for the fiscal year for that year. Back I go to the retention officer (Recruiter for active soldiers) and look to see whats available and he comes to me with the MOS 91V a Respiratory Therapist. Now at this time I had NO CLUE what one was but what swayed my mind toward was what was called a 3 Alpha Bonus for completing the school and low promotion points.

I will explain ... 3 Alpha bonus is equal to 3 times your base pay times the years your reenlist for which came out to a $12,000 bonus, SWEET. Promotion points are points you have to get for the next NCO Sergeant rank, and the least amount you have to get the faster you get promoted which also means more money.

So what do you think I did .... Signed right back up for this Respiratory School and for another 4 year hitch in the Army and decided I needed to do some research to see exactly what I've got myself in to and it really didn't look to bad except for the 80% attrition rate with school in the military had which is as high as Special Forces schools.

August of 1995 my bud from my unit and I packed up our stuff, kissed the wives goodbye and left from Fort Carson Colorado and headed to the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio Texas. Now I had been here already with my Combat Medic course so I was looking forward to getting back, but this time my cohort and I were able to rent a Apartment to live in instead of the barracks, this would be nice.

Now my schooling was broke down into 2 sessions of 4 months each, with the first being basically schoolwork and the second being on the job training at Brooke Army Medical Center, which I was a lucky one to get to be the first class in the new version of this hospital, the old one was scary. Our class actually took a day and helped move patients over to the new one when it opened, that was interesting and good training I'd assume.

So this first session of 4 months started with a math test on day 1 and if you didn't pass you had another chance the next day to pass it, but if you didn't you were out of the course just like that. The second say of school we lost like 5-10 soldiers that day to the math test, mind you we are starting with 80 soldiers in this class. That was a stunner, not the rest of the tests went a lot like that: if you fail you can retake it, if you fail again you are out. If you fail more than than 2 tests during the session you are gone also, but if your overall grades are good you can be what was called a recycle...hold over til the next class comes in.

My days in this session would go something like this: 3 days a week(Mon, Wed, Fri) would have to be information at 05:30 for Physical Training (PT), you know running, sit ups, push ups etc and this lasted for a hour then had to be ready for class by 08:00. So after PT you would run home and shower, get something to eat and maybe cram the books a bit. The other 2 days (Tues, Thurs) you had to be in class by 07:30. These class days would last until 17:00 with a hour break for lunch and a 15 min "smoke break" every 2 hours where we seemed to always get a good game of Hackey Sack going, hey we actually got pretty good at this, hell we did it a couple times a day for 4 months, also someone always seemed to bring a football out to. In this session we were not issued any books at all, we received handouts for each section and then given a lecture on the topic and we had to fill in the missing areas with the information given during the lectures, well we did have one book A Eagan's Guide to Respiratory Therapy. During these weeks we would also have 2-3 tests a week along with some hands on testing with some of the equipment which was mainly different ventilators. Yep we were constantly studying, but the tests soon became a competition between everyone, soldiers have a tendency to compete. This all went on for 4 months, PT, classwork, tests, hackey sack, studying, competing on tests. Everyone inevitably got to know each other pretty well. Along with all this you also had a kind of Drill Sergeant. I say kind of because they were not really around except for the morning and night formation, other than that we were really on our own. It really wasn't to bad. At the end of this time we were down a lot of Soldier to about 50 now, so we lost about 30 from the classroom session, the testing got em, but I made it.

One day during the first session that stands out is At 10 a.m. on October 3rd, 1995 we were all out in our cars listening to the radio waiting as the Verdict of the O.J. Simpson case came out. As you remember he was innocent and wow was everyone surprised. Kind of funny class was actually put on hold to hear that even the instructors were out there. It was a nice sunny day to.

After we had a 2 week break for the Christmas holidays where everyone went home we go ready for the second session. WOoooHHHoooo Halfway done.

This second session consisted of 4 months of OJT at the hospital broken down into 8 different rotations that lasted for 2 weeks. These consisted of PTF, SICU, MICU, NICU, Burn, and Floor Rotations. If you noticed there were only 6, we did 2 rotations with the ICU and Floor's. When a new rotation started you were give a big packet which you had to fill out with information you gathered from you rotation and your test would be over these packets at the end of the 2 weeks. Of course a resourceful as soldiers are after the first rotation after you received the packets for the next rotation we would exchange the already finished packets with people who are just starting that rotation for the one you needed and fill out the new ones. The whole 2 week rotation then consisted of just studying the packet you just filled out, no searching for answers, made for longer time to study and better test scores.

The average day consisted of regular 8 hour shifts, 07:00 to 15:00 then you were off on your own. One of my classmates and I would bring clothes to change into when we got off then went straight to the post golf course almost daily and play a round of golf while quizzing each other on the packets. This was a fun session. Unlike the first session there were no Drill Sergeants, no Physical training but you had to keep up on it because there was a PT test at the end where you did a 2 mile run, 2 mins of Push ups and Sit ups you had to pass or you failed.

Most of the rotations were pretty fun except for PFT rotation which was VERY boring after 2 days and the NICU rotation. The NICU rotation was interesting BUT we were unable to touch anything, all we could to was observe but I did get to see ECMO being used on a baby...very interesting. The Burn unit was pretty cool, you had to actually get orders to work there, and you were only assigned there. In that unit the heat and humidity were turned up so high you would be drenched by the time you came out of a room because you were also gowned, gloved, masked, hair was crazy but very interesting also.

Funny but one of the big things you needed to do to pass this session was to be able to change a ventilator circuit out on a patient with a PB7200 ventilator in under 2 minutes. Yes you were actually timed to do this, you had to complete 3 of these to pass the course. We also had to pass ACLS in this session, and of course the 8 different tests.

In the end I graduated in May of 1996 with 19 other soldier who made it. Yes you read that right only 20 of the original 80 made it to graduation day and we were all close friends who did a lot of partying and traveling on weekends and studying on the weekdays. One weekend we road tripped to Corpus Christie to go deep sea fishing and one bud of mine caught a Shark so we had it filleted and brought it back and had a beer and BBQ shark night, good stuff. That was also the night I walked through the sliding glass door, cut my knee and owed $220 for it. There were also poker parties the first weekend after payday and I lost some and won some but it was a good time.

Would I do it again oh yeah I would, we became a really close nit class due to everyone being away from home we were all we had, I learned a lot and had fun and became one of the 300 of the RT's in the military at that time and was sent off to William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Tx just 8 hours down the road and that's where my career as a RT began.

Yep I know long posting, but hope you enjoyed my insight on how I became a RT, any question's or stories about this or your schooling please ask.

Thanks for reading.


Breathingthroughschool said...

Wow, talk about intense schooling. I am thankful my schooling is not at all like that. I am not sure I could handle it.

Anonymous said...

How much do RT's get payed in the military?
Would u get more if u were a therapist be4 u enlisted into the military?
Am already a therapist.

Anonymous said...

My husband is wanting to change his MOS to this,he is currently a 13P (field artillery), and we are in the long run concerned about how many deployments Respiratory Therapists have experienced.. do you deploy alot? Is this a demanding job? Are you gone from home a lot? We aren't scared of the schooling since my husband (not to brag) but he is VERY intelligent and can do anything he puts his mind to do..we are due in August with our 2nd baby, and we just want for him to be home more w/ us than being deployed. And if this is an 8-5pm job then GREAT! Just please help me know more about this! Thanks for your blog and your info.. he's deployed right now and we don't know a lot about anything other than "hear say". Take care!

Dallas said...

I have heard that there is a site that soldiers can go to when they are getting out of the service to find jobs in the civilian world. I am interested in hiring a part time RT to do testing. Would I be able to post a listing on the site? If so what is the address?

Ward said...

That was a fun read. I was in the army from 73 to 76 - went in as a medic working in the surgical ward of 121 evac hopital in Seoul, Korea. Ended up becoming a respiratory Therapist in the hospital with strictly ojt! 91v10 did not exist at the time. All RT's were hired civilians assigned to military bases around the world. So i was trained by this fellow (a civilian) to replace him when he transferred out. There wasn't a replacement for him... the term Respiratory Therapist was a new one, replacing inhalation therapist and before that oxygen therapist. So the entire dept. consisted of me, my best army buddy and a Korean civilian helper!!! For the entire hospital! That was 24/7 all year long...
The upside was we had no military supervisors... and we put eachother in for promotions... ahhh the fabulous silliness of an Army beaucracy... we also had our own drivers if we were off base and had a call.. my buddy and I were PFC'S!!!! We also got to do ambulance runs, med evacs, medical military airlifts to Japan when RT's were needed, members of the code team (crash cart team) and taught to intubate people in the OR during surgery. Absolutly teriffic time then tranferred to Walter Reed Med Center as RT for another year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insight on life as a 91V. I am a 63B/91B now and I am thinking of reenlisting for something that requires more brain power... I also like the idea of helping people that are hurting or dying. My father in-law has severe asthma and it just kills me to see him struggle to breath. I enjoyed reading your story and wish many blessings on you and your family. To all the Grease Monkeys out there, I still Love turning wrenches, just not in the Army. Hooah, SPC. Biles

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cisg2 said...

Thanks for the posting. I was searching for ARMY AIT RT subjects. I have no pryor service and am enlisting in the army. I will be going to BCT and then AIT for Respiratory Thereapy. I really hope we have as much freedom as you had!?!! I am a little worried about the long AIT time!

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Anonymous said...

I went through the army 91V10 course in 2004. I found it to be worthless on the outside. If your going to stay in for 20 years then yeah go ahead great field. They get deployed like everyone else. I did a year going to Army RT school. Then when I got out I had to go back to college to get my degree in Respiratory care to take the CRT. So I had to do 3 years of schooling that if I just went to college would of been done in 2, just to be certified and work on the out side. If you ask me Worthless!!

Anonymous said...

We had 63 soldiers graduate our ARMY RT course.. Out of those 63 reservist that went and graduated guess how many are RT's on the out side??? 4...go to college and get the training you'll thank me in the long run!

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Mr. Jones said...

I was there with you bro, 1995 Fort Sam Houston. But you forgot to mention that the NAVY was there with you for the bookwork phase lol. Yes we did alot of partying together and yes alot of you Army failed out (and so did 2 Navy, but there were only 5 of us in the beginning) and I missed you all when we had to leave and head to Balboa Naval Medical Center for our clinical phase while you went to BAMC. -Petty Officer Jones