From Maintenance to Medicine

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Twenty-one Airmen from across the Air Force were selected for the 2013 Interservice Physician Assistant Program, with training scheduled to begin December 2012.

Master Sgt. Michael Klose, from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, was among those people selected.

"I'm very excited and honored to have this opportunity," said Klose, the 366th Fighter Wing Inspector General complaints and oversight superintendent. "I am not looking forward to the extreme amount of school work in front of me, but I can see the goal, the benefits, and will do my absolute best."

This joint-service program, which is based out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, offers enlisted Airmen the opportunity to attend a top-tier physician assistant program. Airmen who successfully complete the fast-paced program will receive a commission as a first lieutenant and be stationed at Air Force installations worldwide.

"I have a feeling I will be burning a ton of weekends buried in books, notes and homework," Klose said. continued.

A native of Denison, Texas, the master sergeant and his wife of six years have two children.

"I'm excited to move my family back home to Texas for training because, ever since enlisting, I have been piecing classes and education together," Klose said. "Finding time for schoolwork was difficult as a crew chief because of the long hours and hectic schedule."

After joining the Air Force as a maintainer in 1998 at age of 19, Klose eventually became an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief and went on to become the noncommissioned officer in charge of a heavy inspection section.

Throughout his 14-year career, Klose has been stationed at five bases.

"When my first enlistment was coming to an end, I was stationed in Korea and I was living the dream as part of the Air Force I always envisioned," Klose said. "We were a large group of people working together achieving fantastic goals."

During this time in his career, he became known as what he called a "fixer."

"Back then, I was known as the fixer who was assigned to units or squadrons that needed help preparing for unit compliance inspections," explained Klose. "Working with those units and the deployments were truly the highlight of my career."

The operations in which he participated include Operation Northern Watch, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia as well as spending time in Turkey and Saudi Arabia on temporary duty assignments.

Through his maintainer career, Klose received awards including the 2005 Air Combat Command crew chief of the year and the 2006 Maintenance Professional of the Year, earned his Community College of the Air Force degree in 2010, and was named the Mountain Home AFB Lance P. Sijan award winner in 2010.

"I loved being in maintenance, but when my old chief told me about an opportunity in IG, I applied immediately," Klose said. "Now as superintendent of IG, I am responsible for taking complaints from and addressing concerns of base personnel."

While superintendent of IG, Klose began taking classes at Boise State University and decided on the physician assistant program after a chance encounter.

"In September of 2010, I was at an appointment at the base hospital and was speaking with my physician's assistant," stated Klose. "I told him I was interested in his career field and he informed me of the military's program, which I knew nothing about. He really helped guide me in the right direction and answered questions I had about how the program works."

Klose is also looking forward to his new career field's opportunities once he has completed his military career.

"Another benefit will be my options for employment once I have retired from active duty because there are many opportunities in the civilian job sector for qualified physician assistants," Klose said.

While he has plans for his life after the military, Klose said he knows he has a tough road ahead.

"I have been told that academically this program is one of the most challenging throughout all branches of service," Klose said. "The first year of the course I will take more than 100 exams and have been told the failure rate is high; however, I am confident I will be successful."

One coworker said Klose's confidence is not unfounded.

"I'm not at all surprised he was chosen for this program and have no doubt that Master Sergeant Klose will be successful in his new career field," said Elise Mathias, the 366th FW Inspector General complaints and oversight chief. "He truly embodies the professionalism expected from senior noncommissioned officers and is a true asset to the Air Force."

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