By: Daniel J. Rausa, OMS-II
I stood at attention, saluting the flag of the United States of America as the National Anthem played. I spent nearly an hour that morning at 5:00 AM making sure my uniform was perfect, down to the smallest of details. I heard our National Anthem play hundreds of times in my life, but this time was different. This time, I was listening to it as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and in a military uniform for the very first time.
This past summer, I reported to the U.S. Navy’s Officer Development School (ODS) in Newport, Rhode Island. ODS is a 5 week intensive training program designed to develop future physicians and other professionals into trained Naval officers. While I knew that upon graduation, I would have undoubtedly understood my role as a future Navy physician better, I never anticipated the extent of the personal growth I would experience.
There is something very specific about hearing a Navy Chief screaming at 4:30 AM that made me think critically about life and the choices I made which brought me to that very moment. I chose to be a Navy doctor very simply because I felt a significant connection to the men and women who serve our country. I wanted to be their doctor and in a more cliché sense, I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself, a team of people who worked together to achieve one goal.
There were many times when I felt like an integral member of an extraordinary team. Our training staff pushed us to mental and physical barriers that we have never experienced before and we relied on each other to succeed and keep morale high. Each day we heard the phrase “together we rise, together we fall.” Any sense of self was removed from our psyche and we learned to look out for one another while encouraging the success of the team over the individual. From having twenty minutes for a sixty five person company to shower and be inspection ready in our uniforms to doing pushups together because one person did not memorize the words to “Anchors Aweigh”, every single part of our day exemplified how it was impossible to succeed at ODS as an individual.
This sense of team is an important ideal for our men and women in the military. It is more than wearing the same uniform or carrying out the same mission; it is having a collective sense in pride in what you do everyday that is beyond words and that can only be felt deep down and only understood by those serving next to you. ODS instilled in me this pride that I fail to express no matter how hard I try. We were evaluated as more than just future physicians filling a necessary medical role, but as officers who must demonstrate the highest ideals of leadership and duty. Without my newly ingrained sense of duty and pride, I would be doing a grave disservice to adequately care for our military service members, to fulfill my duties as an officer, and to loyally serve the United States of America.
I was trained to understand that I would be more than a physician who happened to be in the military, but rather that I would be military physician. This learning process began with my experiences at ODS which taught me that my choice to accept the HPSP scholarship was more about my duty to my shipmates and my country than it was about myself. The pride I felt saluting the flag in uniform marked a very memorable beginning to a career that promises to be defined by unique challenges and stresses but nonetheless rewarding in many ways. Standing in formation with nearly two hundred other medical professionals who felt the same way I did at that very moment reaffirmed my sincere desire to become a Navy physician for all the right reasons.