JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON –
Army, Navy and Air Force biomedical equipment technicians came together to celebrate a milestone reached Jan. 31 that spanned a decade and a half: 15 years of consolidated training.
A ceremony marking the occasion was attended by current and former BMET program directors, instructors and staff. Guest speakers shared stories and experiences that shed some historical light on the program's development from separate service-specific training pipelines to integrated instruction.
Prior to 1999, the Army and Navy BMETs trained together at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver, Colo., and the Air Force trained at Sheppard Air Force Base, in Wichita Falls, Texas. At the end of 1999, the programs were consolidated at Sheppard.
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission directed the majority of enlisted medical training be re-located to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. One of these programs was BMET which was located at Sheppard at the time. The deadline for programs to become fully operational capable at METC was Sept. 15, 2011.
The early consolidation effort was led by now-retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bill Fogle.
During the ceremony, Fogle recalled three hurdles to forming a consolidated program at Sheppard Air Force Base: cultural change, ability to build a curriculum that met the needs of the three services and continuing to graduate high-quality BMETs.
For almost two years, he said, the instructors worked dual shifts in order to keep up with the student load.
"As more technology is introduced into medical equipment, we are challenged and must challenge our students to become more computer savvy," Fogle noted and encouraged education and certification opportunities and shared his thoughts for the future.
Other guest speakers included retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Anthony Marroquin, who served as Navy program director during the early transitional period of the program's co-location from Sheppard Air Force Base to the newly established Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston; and Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Faaruwq A. Muhammad, former METC BMET program director from 2010 to 2013.
Despite some doubts about moving a joint program from Sheppard Air Force Base to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Marroquin said he and his colleagues were prepared.
"Between the three services we had a plan," he said. "We designed and redesigned courses. We knew who we would send down here to get things off the ground. We knew that this group could stand up the school in the North Pole and it would succeed. It would succeed because of the awesome staff; military, civilians and contractors."
Through a phased sunset/sunrise implementation plan, the BMET program continued training students at both Sheppard Air Force Base and JBSA-Fort Sam Houston during the transition.
The first METC BMET class started Aug. 4, 2010, while the last Sheppard class graduated Jan. 14, 2011.
"The transition from Sheppard Air Force Base could not have been smoother," said Muhammad, who took over the program during the transition in 2010.
From April 2010 to March 2011, the consolidated BMET program moved more than 75 staff and their families and more than $8 million worth of training equipment to the newly established METC.
"Since the services have been training under the same BMET curriculum since 1999, the BMET program has overcome many of the cultural nuances of each service," Muhammad said. "Now the program spends its time refining processes and curriculum to continue to evolve the BMET training."