This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri March 7th 2018. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email tcnpub3@gmail.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
This is how to enlist in the Army, immediately after graduating from high school, and within about six years be a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a commissioned officer in the Army.
Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 68C Practical Nursing Specialist. After basic training, the course is 55 weeks long. All students must pass the NCLEX-PN test (National Council Licensure Examination for Licensed Practical Nurses) to complete the course, making them an LPN. This is a hospital job.
The requirements to enlist for this job are; be medically and physically qualified to enlist in the military, plus most of the medical jobs require that the enlistee have normal color vision, no aversion to blood, no history of alcoholism or drug use, and no history of violent activity, or sexual misconduct. The ASVAB score requirements are; 101 in ST (Skilled Technical), which consists of VE, verbal expression which is word knowledge and paragraph comprehension, GS, general science, MC mechanical comprehension, and MK, mathematics knowledge, plus a 107 GT (General Technical) score, which also consists of the VE tests plus AR, arithmetic reasoning.
Those are the book requirements. There is competition for that job, plus a person may have to wait a couple months for the MOS to be available. To be competitive for this job a person should blow the ASVAB test away, they should study for it like their very future depends on it. It does. They should be of squeaky clean good moral character and be athletically physically fit. If they are not currently a runner they should start. Running is the best and cheapest cardiorespiratory fitness exercise. The 68C course is tough, not physically but academically, and running keeps good oxygen going to the brain. High school classes in anatomy, biology and physiology will help in the training.
Someone enlisting from here will probably go through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, that’s about 10 weeks. Then the 68C candidate is transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas (San Antonio) for Phase I of the 68C course. Phase I is text books, classes and studying of anatomy and physiology. Phase I is 11 weeks, three days long. In phase I living conditions resemble basic training. Get up at 0400 or 0430, clean barracks, PT (physical training), breakfast, march to class at 0830. Personal freedoms increase as the class progresses. There isn’t an “easy” part of the 68C course. Civilian LPN courses are two years long, the Army does it in one. The fail rate fluctuates from class to class. The Army does not like high fail rates in long expensive courses. For those who struggle there will be remedial classes and individual tutoring. Tests are given each week after that block of instruction. You cannot fail a test. If a student fails a test he or she is allowed to retest, if they pass that time (above 76%) OK, but if they fail the second time they may be recycled back to a newer class or dropped and reclassified to another MOS.
After completing phase I, students are transferred to Phase II at one of five locations; Brooke Army Medical Center right there at Fort Sam Houston, William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, Texas (El Paso), Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Washington (between Tacoma and Seattle), Dwight D Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia (Augusta), and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Washington, DC. That is a permanent change of station (PCS) so the Army will move a family to accompany a Phase II student, and some have said that a car practically a necessity, depending on the location. The first five weeks of Phase II are classes five days a week. It has been described as being academically brutal. PT is at 5:00 AM, clean up, get dressed, eat breakfast and be in a mandatory study hall at 7:00 AM until 8:00 AM when regular classes begin. Class 8:00 to noon, then 1:00PM to 5:00 PM. Tests are every two weeks in Phase II. After those first five weeks of Phase II, classes are only on Monday and Tuesday, while Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are spent on a ward in the hospital working under the close supervision of an instructor. There they get to interact with patients and deal with different illnesses, injuries and treatments. On those days PT is often in the afternoon in the gym. A grade point average of 84 percent must be maintained, if a student falls to 80 percent they are placed on academic probation, and must apply extra study hours and keep a log of their study time.
Finally in the last few weeks of Phase II, sometimes called Phase III, the student is paired with an LPN in the hospital and works a regular shift. The final exam is the NCLEX-PN test, making them a Licensed Practical Nurse. One recent graduating class said that they started with 65 students and 13 months, 29 tests and 798 clinical hours later they graduated with 51. That’s a 78 percent success rate.
When this person arrives at their first duty station (hospital), they will have been in the Army around 16 to 17 months. They will probably be promoted to Specialist E4 shortly after establishing themselves in their job.
Now for the Registered Nurse part. The Army get its registered nurses through Army ROTC Nurse Programs, some are direct commissioned into the Army, although that is very competitive, and some are grown from within. The Army has many male nurses, but most are women. Upon being commissioned a Second Lieutenant, nurses are obligated to serve in the Army for three and four years. Many leave the Army after their initial obligation, after all they are registered nurses. Many large civilian hospitals offer sign-on bonuses for nurses. The Army assumes that it has a much better opportunity to retain a nurse, possibly for a career, if that nurse comes from within the Army. So the Army Medical Department (AMEDD), has its own “Enlisted Commissioning Program”. The requirements are; have been in the Army for at least three years, but not more than twelve, be a Specialist E4 or above, have enough college to complete a Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) program within two years, and be accepted at a college or university to do just that. Those selected, are not discharged, they are assigned to the ROTC department of the school that has accepted them. They continue to draw full pay and allowances, and the army pays full tuition plus $1,000 a year for books. When they receive their degree and complete the ROTC program they are commissioned, they then owe the army four years as a nurse.
The graduating 68C, who is at that time an LPN, has close to 60 college semester hours, maybe only a couple classes short of an Associate’s Degree. Those hours have to be accepted by a civilian school and schools have different requirements, but find a school that will accept all or most all of those hours, and has a bachelor of science in nursing program, and an Army ROTC program. Central Missouri at Warrensburg appears to be a military friendly school that fits that scenario.
A registered nurse in the Army is an officer, and in the Army an officer is an officer, whether that person is a nurse or an airborne ranger infantry officer. A new Army registered nurse is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant (2LT). After the nurse officer basic leadership course, a 2LT nurse will typically work a shift on a hospital ward as their first job. At 18 months from their commissioning they are promoted to First Lieutenant (1LT). A 1LT nurse may be the charge nurse on a shift. At about four years from their commissioning they are promoted to Captain. At about that same time, if they are staying in the army, they will return to Fort Sam for the AMEDD Captains Career Course. Also around that time the army will be encouraging them to get a masters degree, and for some, the army will send them to grad school. At around the ten year time they will probably be promoted to Major and sent to attend the year-long Command and General Staff College, with officers from all army branches. Promotion to Lieutenant Colonel may come around the 15 to 16 year time frame, and if they are promoted to full Colonel that will probably be around the 20 year mark. Army nurses not only work in hospitals, they command companies, clinics and hospitals. One of the recent commanders of the hospital at Fort Leonard Wood was a female nurse (Colonel), not a doctor. And the Commander of the US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) and Surgeon General of the Army, who retired prior to the current commander, was Lieutenant General (3 stars) Patricia Horoho, a nurse.

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