The military chain of command at USU, though somewhat different, is very similar to the chain of command you will find in a military medical treatment facility. It originates with the Brigade Commander, who reports to the President of the University. Supporting the Brigade Commander is the Commandant and, in turn, the service-specific Company Commanders. It is through this chain that you will receive guidance regarding your military responsibilities and development as officers.
Periodic commandant's calls and officer professional development sessions are required military events of importance to you as junior officers and medical students. The commandant is charged with overseeing your development as your service's junior officers and leaders. Topics vary in nature, but generally expand on generic officership issues first raised in service-specific orientations. The Commandant designs the presentations to reflect current thinking in each of the services.
Pre-clerkship students have the opportunity to plan several formal military functions each year. These serve as an excellent way to learn the history and traditions of each of the services while planning enjoyable evenings for members of the University community. All planning and decision making is done by students in concert with the service-specific Commanders. Frequent informal social functions, though no less important, are entirely student run.
Officers at USU comply with all applicable policies of their respective services. These include uniform and personal appearance standards. The service-specific Commanders will perform uniform inspections during formations several times each year for students of all services. Officers also participate in the University's physical training programs and evaluations, under regulations of their parent services. Although most students pursue physical activity on their own or in groups, each student is required to pass a physical fitness test once or twice each year. While a student at USU and a member of the military, you will also be subjected to random, unannounced drug screenings each year. USU policies and mechanisms mirror what occurs in other military organizations.
USU has its own Military Personnel Office (MILPO) under the Brigade Commander. This office is staffed by professionals of each service to assist you on matters pertaining to your USU assignment, pay issues and other administrative support. Discuss your problems or ask your questions in these areas with the MILPO staff before seeking assistance from outside the University, since the office serves as a direct link to related offices at major parent-service installations in the Washington, DC, area.
Because of the rigors of the academic schedule, University policy prohibits off-duty employment for medical officer candidates except in highly unusual circumstances.
During your service orientation, you will hear of the benefits which members of the military services receive. These include use of exchanges and commissaries, excellent insurance coverage, and a non-contributory retirement system. Several benefits in which you will be immediately interested are your pay, leave, and health/dental benefits, so we briefly highlight these areas below.
Pay and Earnings
Military Officers have the choice of being paid either monthly or on the first and fifteenth of the month. Military Officers can start allotments (e.g., for savings, loans, insurance, or charitable) anytime for any amount by completing the necessary forms at MILPO.
Each month you will receive a computerized leave and earnings statement (LES) which breaks down your pay into its various components, shows your deductions and allotments, and tells you how much leave you have earned and used. Although the format and content of LES's vary somewhat from service to service, all will show at least the following four breakdowns.
- Basic pay: Basic pay is the only portion of your salary that is taxable. Generally, USU students receive a base pay at the O-1 pay grade with less than two years service time unless the student has creditable prior service. Check with MILPO to determine how creditable service is computed.
- Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH): This non-taxable housing allowance is determined by your rank, whether or not you have dependents, and the area of the country in which you are stationed.
- Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS): BAS is generally regarded as "grocery money" and is a fixed rate for all officers regardless of rank. BAS is not taxable.
- Net Pay: Your net pay may vary somewhat from your classmates' depending on factors such as years of prior service, allotments, taxes withheld, dependents, etc. If you feel you are getting more money than you are entitled to, do not ignore it. Notify MILPO of your concern and put the excess amount in a savings account until the matter is resolved. Remember: if the government is overpaying you, it will eventually discover the error and recover the excess payment from the paycheck(s) following the discovery of the error without necessarily informing you.
If you have a pay problem or if you have any questions regarding your LES, contact MILPO immediately. Bring with you all relevant documentation.
Medical and Dental Care
You and your family are eligible for health care under the DOD health care program, TRICARE. TRICARE is designed to meet the department's medical mission and includes provisions for supplementing military treatment facilities with resources and health care professionals from civilian medical organizations. For more information about TRICARE, contact the TRICARE office at the medical treatment facility nearest you, or any of the following web sites:
- Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
- Dental insurance, through United Concordia, is available to families of active duty service members. There is a nominal monthly charge for the dental insurance.
Leave and Passes
Like all members of the services, you accrue leave at the rate of 30 days per year; the academic calendar delineates when you may take that leave. There are other times when you are permitted to be "on pass" out of the local area, provided you return in time for the resumption of classes. Your company commander will provide details of these when they occur.