DODMERB (Part 2) – It’s only a flesh wound

So, you receive a letter that says you are DQ, what next. The letter will explain exactly what your options are, so read the letter carefully. You basically have two options if you don’t want to give up and accept the finding. You can respond to DODMERB with the argument that your medical information is erroneous, and you really don’t have the disqualifying condition. This shouldn’t be an emotional “yes, I’m blind in one eye, but I’m able to do just about everything someone with sight in both eyes can do”, it needs to be “although I was diagnosed with blindness in one eye, I have subsequently seen a specialist who has determined that I have perfect vision in both eyes”.

Alright, you were disqualifed by DODMERB, and you can’t make a strong argument that you don’t have the conditions all your medical records say you do. If DODMERB denies your rebuttal the next step is for your physical to be passed to Cadet Command for waiver consideration. Each branch of service has the ability to waive the medical disqualification, or to say “although the applicant has a condition that does not meet DODMERB standards, we will take the risk of waiving that DQ and allowing the applicant to serve”. Using asthma as an example, the Army may have decided that although someone has been diagnosed after the age of 13 (a DODMERB DQ) if the applicant can pass a pulmonary functions test, and hasn’t used medication to control breathing difficulty then they will allow the applicant to serve. The Army is governed by an Army Regulation 40-501 standards-of-medical-fitness. The Cadet Command surgeon will review your file, and any additional information you and your doctors provide regarding your condition. You may be directed, as with the DODMERB, to provide additional information and undergo additional tests. These are known as remedials.

Some articles about he waiver process from the USMA website Some of this information is USMA specific, but the general information about the process is helpful.

The military has standards for a reason. We are not an equal opportunity employer when it comes to conditions that would make you unfit for service. You may think that your condition wouldn’t hinder you, but the Army has their reason. Every employee in our corporation needs to be able to go to places where medications may not be readily available. They need to go to places where regular hygiene may be an issue. They need to be able to walk, run, carry heavy stuff, and otherwise do what soldiers do in difficult conditions. If someone becomes sick or incapacitated in a forward deployed area, it won’t be just them that will be taken out of the fight and put at risk. A buddy or medical personnel will have to tend to them. Medical vehicles or aircraft will have to travel to evacuate them. Personnel and assets that could be used in the fight, will instead be dealing with a sick or injured soldier. That is why we have medical standards.

Final words of wisdom…be honest…be thorough…be persistent.

In part 3 I’ll cover some common disqualifies.


How to transfer a scholarship

This years Army ROTC 4 year High School scholarship process has been a little confusing. There was a lack of guidance regarding how Cadet Command would handle requests for a transfer of an offer, especially since second round offers were made to one or two schools on an applicants list, instead of the up to 5 school offers from the past board. Here is the recent guidance we received on the heels of the the second board results being released. Keep in mind that we have not received word on the likelihood of these requests being honored. There is no guarantee that a request for transfer will be honored, but if you are stuck it can’t hurt to ask.

Three things are required:

1. Accept the original offer. If the original offer is declined or
withdrawn, the offer no longer exists.

2. State in a letter or an email which school you are requesting
to transfer your offer to.

3. Send a copy of the university acceptance letter. The applicant
must be accepted to the university they are requesting to change their offer to.

A scholarship winner who wishes to submit a request for change should send their request to You should also track this request through the ROOs at both the school you were offered and the school you wish to transfer to. Battalions don’t have the authorization to tell you that a transfer will happen, so don’t let them do it, but they need to be aware of your intentions.

Don’t know how the process will work itself out, but we shall see.

DODMERB (Part 1) – Open up and say AHHHH

Let me start off by saying approximately 70% of young Americans are not qualified to serve. Part of that 70% are disqualified because of a medical condition. The Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board (DODMERB) is the process that all US Military Officer candidates go through to ensure they are medically qualified to serve. Service Academy applicants and ROTC candidates are required to go through the process. It is a process that usually generates a good number of questions from students contemplating service. In my years as an Enrollment Officer I have spent plenty of time helping applicants determine where they stand, and helping them craft rebuttals and waiver requests.

The DODMERB process begins with the physical. Typically you will be directed to the DODMETS website (Do not begin this process until directed to), where you will fill out your medical history, download your required forms, and identify the contract physicians or Military Treatment Facility (MTF) that will conduct your examinations. You will take a physical and eye exam at the Army’s expense at the contracted doctor closest to your house. You are not authorized to have a doctor of your choice do the physical.

When you fill out your medical history online you should identify any medical condition you have had in the past. My understanding is that the online medical history program asks the basic questions, and will intuitively ask the follow up if it identifies issues with your answers or answers that needs more explaination.

When you go for your exams you should be prepared to explain the status and prognosis of any medical condition you identified on your medical history form. If you don’t do that at the time of your exam, you may receive what is known as a remedial. A remedial is a request for additional information. It may be a request for actual medical records regarding a condition or injury, and it may just be a statement or explaination regarding something on your medical history. An example of this would be history of headaches. You may have checked the yes block on your medical history where it asks if you suffer from headaches. You answered the question truthfully, but your headaches are not serious. If the doctor overlooks your affirmative answer, and neglects to explain on the examination form that the headaches are not significant, DODMERB may pick this up, and ask you to fill out a form explaining your headaches. It is fairly common for DODMERB to ask to see medical records regarding sports injuries like knee or shoulder surgeries or histories of significant medical care. You may also be sent for additional tests for things like allergies or breathing difficulty issues.

DODMERB is governed by a black and white regulation. If the regulation says diagnosis of asthma after the age of 13 is a disqualifier, then if you were diagnosed with asthma after the age of 13 you are DQ. The fact that you ran a marathon last week, or that you are a really good person that is able to live a normal life with asthma doesn’t change the fact you were diagnosed, or the fact that diagnosis is a disqualifier. The regulation DODMERB uses to make their decision is DoD Instruction 6130.03, April 28, 2010. You can look right in the reg and see whether your condition is a disqualifier or not. There is plenty of rumor and mythology surrounding the process, but in my years of dealing with the process, when it comes down to it, it is very predictable and straight forward once you understand it.

There is also a failure to disclose disqualifier. If DODMERB asks for all your medical records after the age of 12, because you said you had a skin rash, and upon reviewing those records they notice the word asthma a number of times, and you failed to check yes for history of asthma you will have some additional explaining to do, and may be disqualified for failure to disclose.

Here is a link that you may find useful.

Service Academy Forum – DoDMERB

In part Two I will cover what to do if you are disqualified and explain the waiver process.


I’m in a Chinook

Recently the Basic Course Cadets from the Golden Knight Battalion took a little helicopter ride.  For the past few years Clarkson Army ROTC has been able to request New York Army Nation Guard helicopters to come support our training.

The excitement and anticipation always builds each year as the day gets near. We had to get ID tags for all the cadets to ride in the helicopters, and if a cadet thought that the information required to get the tags made wasn’t making it up the Cadet chain of command, there was almost panic, for fear of not getting the helicopter ride.

The day of the ride, approximately 30 minutes before the scheduled start of lab there was a rumble in the sky. The Cadet Battalion Commander posted on facebook.

Charles Rugg -That sounds like a CH-47 Flying Over man the MS I and II’s are going to have fun

Even our friend, Pat, from Main Street Barbers in Potsdam (where all the cadets get their hair cut) noticed

Pat Austin – nothing better than hearing that noise go by the barbershop on a clear day


The Chinook helicopters landed at Damon Field, the airport in Potsdam, NY. the cadets were organized into groups to board the two aircraft by the Senior Cadets. The Cadet in charge, Cdt/Major Phil Ables is actually a member of the National Guard unit as an SMP cadet, and this exercise gave him a good opportunity to work with his assigned unit. He plans to go to flight school after graduation, and hopefully return one day for airlab as the pilot.

The Cadets received a safety brief from the crews prior to boarding the aircraft and half of them loaded the aircraft for the first flight.

As the engines started to turn all the cameras and camera phones came out. This is probably the most documented lab we have ever had. The number of posted pictures and videos were amazing.

Not to be scooped I got busy on my smartphone.

The cadets that participated in the lab all had big smiles on their faces, and great stories to tell all their friends when they got back to campus. Thanks to Cadet/Major Ables for coordinating, and the NYARNG for supporting a great day of Army Training.

You can also read more about the adventure on Cadet/SGT Matt Flynn’s Army Stories Blog. He has video of Potsdam from the Air.


What’s in it for me?

Not every one in ROTC is going to school for free. There, I said it. Many people think that all Cadets are going to school for free, and that is not the case.  As budgets tighten more and more cadets will be enrolled, and may not be contracted until their Junior year.  So, why in the world would someone participate in ROTC in college and contract without a full ride scholarship?

Here are some of the motivations and benefits that go beyond the free college education some cadets receive.

Cadet Command did a smart thing a couple years ago. Since West Point graduates and ROTC graduates are at the exact same place when they graduate (brand new Second Lieutenants with a college degree) they decided to offer the same deal to ROTC scholarship winners that West Pointers get.  Unlike some of the other service’s ROTC’s, all of our scholarship pay all tuition and fees (or room and board if it’s more).  No tier 2 or partial scholarships for non technical majors.  Just like in the old days when they decided that enlisted soldiers didn’t fall out of the sky any faster or slower and they deserved the same amount of jump pay.  Back when I was a Cadet, Officers actually got paid more to be on jump status.

Can you pick out the scholarship winners...didn't think so.

But I digress.  For all the applicants who don’t get scholarships, and the students who come to school next fall without a good understanding of what ROTC has to offer, and what being an Army Officer is all about, I would welcome you to consider the other benefits and think about giving it a try.