General Medical Officers

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The position of general medical officer (GMO) offers a wealth of opportunity. GMOs provide primary-care medicine to active-duty personnel, which means you will get military-specific medical training. GMOs serve as flight surgeons and undersea medical officers, and they may be attached to a specific air wing, ship or submarine. Time served as a GMO fulfills your active-duty service obligation for participation in a medical scholarship program.

Since the number of military residency slots can fluctuate from year to year, you may need to serve as a GMO before you can participate in the residency of your choice. When your GMO term ends, you can reapply for your residency, or you can continue to serve as a GMO until you complete your service commitment. Service as a GMO may give you an edge if you are applying to a competitive residency.

GMOs in the Navy

Another career opportunity is the operational medical officer (OMO) tour, previously known as the (GMO) tour. This is a two- to-three year period of time (either after intern year or following residency) where graduates go out with the fleet or the Marines to serve as general practitioners for their respective units. OMOs are licensed, practicing physicians who may or may not be residency trained in a specialty. Going on a GMO tour gives graduates the opportunity to join and directly support U.S. Sailors and Marines working within operational units.

Navy GMOs have the obvious opportunity to go on a ship, but there are many other opportunities too, including:

  • Working with Marine units as a Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) doctor
  • Underwater/dive medical officers work with submarines or special operations. The SEALs, Marine Recon, and Marine Special Operations Command (AKA Marine Raiders) frequently need dive docs and get certified in diving.
  • Flight Surgeons take care of pilots and may even learn to fly aircraft and get hours toward a civilian pilot's license.
Kris Scotten

The Navy is the only Service that actively still requires a GMO (about 50% of interns are required to do a GMO tour). It is important to note that going on a GMO tour means putting residency on hold, increasing the time it takes to become a board-certified physician.

Special Training

Here is just a sample of the training one can receive while practicing as a Navy GMO:

Selectees for flight surgery report to Navy Aerospace Medical Training Institute (NAMI) in Pensacola, Florida. There, trainees undergo 24 weeks of pre-flight, flight, and academic training preparing for duty with operational forces. Upon the completion of training, flight surgeons are assigned to Navy and Marine Corps aviation units for a period of two years practicing medicine within the profession of aviation.

Selectees for Undersea Medicine report to the Naval Undersea Medical Institute (NUMI) in Groton, Connecticut. Trainees undergo 23 weeks of advanced training in undersea medicine and radiation health. Upon successful completion, UMOs are assigned to deployable submarine tenders, land-based submarine squadron staffs, and deployable and land-based diving units to support warfighters in the Submarine Force.

GMOs in The Air Force

General medical officer (GMO) roles in the Air Force are more commonly referred to as flight surgeons. While GMOs in other branches work with a larger, more general patient population that can include retirees and their dependents, a flight surgeon is responsible for pilots and crew-members traveling in air or space. They are tasked with determining the crew’s fitness for flying and special duties, along with evaluating living and work environments for any health hazards.

Flight surgeons will often split their time between clinical work and what is referred to as “squadron time”. This time includes flying hours, meetings with their squadron, administrative duties, and more. They serve as the liaisons between flying squadrons and medicine services, and can also be called to advise on aviation mishap investigation boards.

In the Air Force, those who do not match into a residency after the internship year will become flight surgeons, unless there is a medical issue that disqualifies candidates from flight status.

Operational Medical Assignments In The Army

The Army does not have a GMO rank. Instead, there are “operational medical assignments,” and while they are similar to GMOs, they differ in certain respects. Typically, these roles are assigned after a student completes their residency, at which point they serve in a supporting role for infantry units, and may be called by certain titles, such as field surgeon or battalion surgeon, flight surgeon, or similar.

Pay And Benefits

As a GMO, you will receive a base pay plus housing and subsistence allowances. In addition, you are eligible for the GMO IP (incentive pay) totaling $20,000/year, prorated monthly.