Dentist Gives Up Civilian Practice to Serve in the U.S. Army

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News Archive/2009/November/091116-04.html

FORT LEWIS, Wash. (USASOC News Service, Nov. 16, 2009) – It can be said that when one joins the military, one must give up something. For some, that can be more than others.

Dr. Mick Brooks, an Army major in charge of dental health at 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), understands such sacrifice.

Sixteen months ago, Brooks entered the Army. He left behind a civilian dental practice located just south of Youngstown, Ohio that he founded with his childhood friend, Donald Dechellis.

“It was a pretty good size practice,” said the Ohio State graduate of the two Brooks and Dechellis dental clinics he and his friend once ran. “I had been practicing (dental medicine) with (Dechellis) for about 12 years. We have two different offices. He would practice (at) one office and I would practice (at) the other. We were a pretty busy practice. I would say (we had) about 20 full- and part-time employees.”

While the 53-year old says he took “more than a little bit” of a pay cut, he has no regrets about joining the Army. He added that those who surround him make his job enjoyable and rewarding.

“You know I have to say that I think I’ve hooked up with some of the best people I’ve ever met,” Brooks said. “I’ve met some exciting people. I’ve met some very interesting people. I’ve met people I have lot of respect for - for what they do and for what they’ve done in the past. It’s an experience I’m glad I getting have.”

His experiences include a deployment to support Joint Special Operations Task Forces – Philippines earlier this year. During this deployment, Brooks and his assistant, Staff Sgt. Rosa Duran, provided dental services to the people of Mindinao Island.

Brooks said he “enjoyed the community outreach” during the deployment.

JOINING THE ARMY

Brooks’ journey to becoming an Army officer began shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Following the terrorists’ attacks, Brooks was filled with a sense of obligation and duty to serve his country. Despite being 45 at the time, he gave serious thought to volunteering.

“I actually went down to a recruiter,” said Brooks. “Things didn’t pan out at that time.”

During Spring 2007, the Army sent Brooks a letter seeking his then 25 years of dental experience.

“I was looking to join the Reserves,” Brooks said.

After conversing with his recruiter, Brooks learned that he was eligible to join as an active-duty Soldier.

The next step for Brooks was Officer Basic Course at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas.

Before leaving Ohio, Brooks informed some of his patients of his decision to join the Army.

“A lot of people, when I would tell them at first didn’t believe it,” said Brooks. “I had been there (at the clinic) for such a long time. I had such a good relationship with so many people. I had (treated) them… (treated) their kids. I had known people for a long time.”

Brooks attributes most of the doubt on his age.

“They (patients, family and friends) said, ‘You’re not doing that’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I am,’” Brooks recalls. “It’s just something I’ve wanted to do. And I’m going to go do it.”

OFFICER BASIC COURSE

Brooks arrived at Fort Sam Houston as an officer candidate in 2008.

“It was interesting. Physically it wasn’t hard. Mentally it was probably harder than physically,” he explained.

The biggest challenge Brooks needed to make was learning to take instruction after 28 years of being his own boss. There were other adaptations he needed to make to successfully finish the course.

“You know sleeping in the tent with 30 other guys, going from a nice house with a nice bed and a flat screen on the wall to sleeping in a tent. That was pretty different, but it was OK, I got through it,” said Brooks.

While adjusting to a new life style, Brooks confides that he sometimes stared at the cloth ceiling of the tent at night wondering if he had made a mistake by joining the Army. As he began to understand the Army, his feelings changed.

“I was glad (that I volunteered for the Army) by the time I got out of there,” said Brooks.

While Brooks is not the first to join the Army after a successful civilian career, he noticed one thing about his fellow students and instructors.

“Every single one of ‘em was younger,” Brooks cheerfully explains. “I think I was the only dentist that had been in practice. All the others were just coming out of school.”

Brooks added that one of the students celebrated his 21st birthday while at the course.

A NEW LIFE

Since arriving at Fort Lewis, Brooks said he, his wife and three kids have adjusted well to their new home.

“In a lot of ways it’s (being an Army dentist) not too much different from private practice,” said Brooks.

He added that the Army has given him great support to execute and succeed in his daily mission.

“I like what I’m doing,” said Brooks. “I take a lot of pride in what I’m doing. I take pride in being in the Army. I enjoy being in the Army.”

Part of this pride comes from having family that served.

“My Dad served in WWII,” explained Brooks. “He was in the Italian theater during WWII.”

He added that his father served as an infantryman in the 85th Infantry Division and is the recipient of two Bronze Star Medals for Valor. Brooks said his father’s service continues to inspire him to do his best.

Brooks continues to challenge himself. Most recently, he graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga.

Brooks’ motivation and dedication is not lost to those with whom he works.

“I think it’s great (that he volunteered for the army),” said Duran, Brooks’ assistant. “He doesn’t have to do it. He could be making more money on the outside.”

Duran added that earning lots of money is not what motivates Brooks.
“He really cares a lot about his patients,” said Duran. “On patient care, if a regular (doctor) in the Army wouldn’t do it, (Brooks) will go out of his way to do it. He’s here for the patients.”

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Doctor (Major) Mick Brooks (far right), the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) dentist, operates on a patient at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash. with the assistance of Sgt. Rosa Duran (far left). Brooks gave up a successfully civilian dental practice to serve in the Army. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman)

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Doctor (Major) Mick Brooks, the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) dentist, operates on a patient at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash. Brooks gave up a successfully civilian dental practice to serve in the Army. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman/1st SFG(A) PAO)
 
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