Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Oct. 1 has been set as the date to merge the dental technician rating into the hospital corpsman field rating, the Navy has announced.
Dental Technician 3RD Class Petty Officer / Hospital Corpsmen 3RD Class Petty Officer Combining the fields shifts some 2,800 dental technicians into the more than 23,000-strong hospital corpsmen field, according to Navy Bureau of Medicine Force Master Chief Petty Officer Jackie DiRosa. With the merger comes new training, DiRosa said, providing sailors with the two ratings’ basic skills and knowledge. Now, hospital corpsmen and dental technicians learn the manuals for each others’ jobs from recruits through petty officers first class. Senior enlisted ranks have additional Web-based training. Active-duty and full-time support personnel have until July 30 to complete the training; those in the Reserves have until July 30, 2007. “Dental technicians are going to have the most to learn,” DiRosa said. “But this training is going to bridge the gap between the two ratings … give them the foundational skills of being a hospital corpsmen. They’ll have to show they are proficient in basic lifesaving skills." DiRosa said the dental assistant job still will be there; it’s just now one of 46 specialties within the hospital corpsman field. To make a smooth transition, she said, training at the Navy’s schools had to be revamped. The new 14-week hospital corpsman “A” school with a dental assistant training package kicked off at Naval Hospital Corps School, Great Lakes, Ill., in early August. A new six-week dental school for those who wish to specialize in the field was designed; the first class should start in November, DiRosa said, adding the Navy will train about 250 dental-assistant corpsmen each year. Training for Navy dental technicians was held at a joint military school at Shepherd Air Force Base, Texas. Seaman April Rogers, a dental technician at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, said the merger means “it will be easier for current dental techs to transfer to other specialties — say biomedical — that would have been a little more challenging under the current system. … I will still be working as a dental tech but will have more exposure to medical training.” Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephanie Santiago, a laboratory technician at the hospital, said the change gives more options but also will make getting promoted more difficult. “The merger will allow more diversity for new corpsmen coming into the career field,” she said. “As HMs, we are already required to have dental training and will be learning more to be competitive for advancement. Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephanie Santiago, U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa laboratory technician, prepares a sample of blood for testing. Santiago will be affected by the dental technician and hospital corpsman rate mergers.… The merger will probably be hardest on the current dental technicians who will be required to train more in depth on medical procedures. Regardless, it will be more difficult competitively.” DiRosa said corpsmen who study and meet their requirements will be competitive and have equal opportunities for promotion. “It’s a win-win overall,” she said. “The Navy and Marine Corps benefit because we will now have greater flexibility and utilization of all our manpower assigned to the Marine Corps. … This increases our pool of available deployable corpsmen.”