Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized
The army is different from the civilian world in many ways. A big difference is that most civilian dentists are in solo practices while in the army we are one big corporate group practice. Like the corporate world, we get promoted. With promotions come more rank, pay, privileges, and occasionally respect. The army medical department differs from the rest of the army in that our promotion boards are kind of just a formality. Dentists can reasonably assume that they will get promoted every six years. You cant get promoted early but if you are a total screw up you may get promoted late. In the regular army promotions are competitive and officers who are awesome at their job can get promoted ahead of their peers. This is called “below the zone.” This disparity was recently discussed during the annual junior officer’s video teleconference with our corps chief. His answer was essentially this: Promotions to Major are pretty much set in stone. Promotions to LTC and COL have the potential to be competitive. Laws regarding this are set by congres, etc, etc.
Here is the problem. Hypothetical situation: Those junior officers who go above and beyond will never get promoted ahead of their peers for their hard work. Their initial obligation will come to an end and they will realize that there is no reason to work for an organization that does not reward their drive, talent, or ambition. The above average officers realize their talent is being limited and get out of the military. The below average officers see the opportunity created by the talent vacuum and decide to stick around. This problem snowballs and creates a situation where the talent and drive lies in the junior officer ranks. And no one is doing anything to retain the talent.
Of course this isnt the situation with everyone. I have a lot of respect for many of our senior officers. When I was in my AEGD one of our oral surgeons told me about the three types of army dentists: “those in-training, those in-payback, and those who are in-competent.” Thats a pretty big generalization but I can definitely see where he was coming from.
My concern is what this is doing to the Army Dental Corps in 20 or 30 years? Who will the leaders be? What direction will they be taking the organization in? What things can we do to encourage talented junior officers to stay? The big army is already realizing this problem and is trying to identify those officers with strategic mindsets and cultivate them as the next generation of army leaders. I hope our branch catches on.
  1. Jon says:

    Totally agree about high-speed officers having little incentive to stick around after their obligation. Sad, but very true!

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