“I never thought that I’d join the Air Force,” says Adam Klemens, OD ’05. “Then, when I came into optometry school, September 11th happened.” He spoke to an Air Force recruiter at ICO’s annual Equipment Fair. They offered a 2-year scholarship in exchange for 3 years of service.
Klemens planned to serve in the Air Force for the minimum amount of time. Then, he would return to Chicago with his wife, Susan Tran Klemens, OD ’06. He was so sure of this plan that he admits to being “frustrated” when his father exclaimed, “Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it!”
Today, Klemens is a Lieutenant Colonel in San Antonio, Texas. He has been practicing optometry in the Air Force for twelve years. His patients are far more diverse than he expected, and he still gets family time. Plus, “I’ve got friends stationed all over the world,” he says. “You pick your family as you go along.”
This Close Up of Lt. Col. Klemens makes it clear why he stuck with the armed forces.
“I’m finishing up my morning run around base. It’s built into our schedule. It’s usually too hot in the afternoon in Texas.”
“My coffee machine is on the fritz, so I’ve become dependent upon the base Starbucks over the last few weeks. I like a caramel macchiato.”
“Before I came into the Air Force, I remember being worried I’d see 20-year-old patients all day long. Luckily, I was wrong. This 11-year-old man brings big personality to the office. He’s telling everybody that he’s going to be a movie star now. Anybody who’s active duty, you get all their kids.”
“With half my patients being family members and retirees, the population is quite similar to private practice. I love that I can provide full-scope optometric care in this environment.”
“I’ll miss all of this technology when I finally have to retire. I’ll also miss having the patients’ PCM, laboratory, and pharmacy down the hall to do consults. I am right in the center of a primary care team.”
“I’m currently in a career broadening assignment, so I split my duties between clinic and being the Executive Officer for Major General Harencak. In this role, I implement policy in support of 31 commanders and 2,900 geographically separated members across 1,100 facilities delivering 30,000 new Airmen to the Air Force annually.”
“I love getting out to where my patients work. This is a T-38. Here, I’m measuring the range of distances to the instrument clusters so I can tailor an SRx to specific occupational demands.”
“People love their jobs out here, so I usually get to learn something about what they do when I conduct a shop visit. Here, Dave explains the wizardry of the T-38 jet engine. This one seized during its initial test run.”
“We wrap up the day with a quick trip to the park. Aidan is seven, Adrian is five. He just started kindergarten. Addison is three. She’s missing her brothers that have left her at daycare. I love playing with these guys when I get home.”