Duncan Cancer Center IT expert doubles as dedicated U.S. Army officer
April 1, 2011
Stephen Stremmel is part of an important information technology team here at BCM. He's in charge of system administration, hardware specification and management for the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center's biomedical informatics group. But for nearly 25 years, he has been a member of another very important team – The United States Armed Forces.
Throughout his years of service, he has had many different roles, been a part of many different groups/divisions and travelled to many different parts of the world.
Stremmel joined the Air Force in 1985, the Army in 1991, and then the Army National Guard in 2004.
On Jan. 21, Stremmel left for another big mission to serve with the 36th Infantry Division – one of the last military groups assigned to Basra, Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a military campaign that began in 2003.
"When our work is finished, we will hand everything over to the Iraqi government," said Stremmel, in an interview prior to his departure. He will spend about eight months there.
During this tour, Stremmel's specific duties will be on the Division G6 Staff in the network operations and administration section.
"Most of my previous experiences have included a combat role," said Stremmel. "I would actually prefer to be in that role. This will be more of a support role."
He joined the Air Force in 1985 because he "wanted to travel around the world." This will be Stremmel's first tour of duty in Iraq, but he has previously served in Kosovo, Korea, Japan, Germany, England, Paris and the Philippines.
Stremmel has climbed the ranks in the past 25 years. He is now a warrant officer, which means he is rated as an officer above the senior-most enlisted ranks.
His prior services have included experiences in combat, counter-insurgency, peace-keeping operations and current anti-terrorist operations.
When asked if he ever gets scared prior to deployment, Stremmel offers a very quick "No – I have been doing this long enough not to worry about it."
A Pearland native, Stremmel, 45, is married with five children – four boys ages 24, 24, 22 and 15, and one girl age 18 – and has enough family to worry about him, he said. The family lives in League City.
He will keep in touch with them through e-mail, Skype and phone calls.
Of pre-deployment rituals, Stremmel said he does extensive research on the location. "I reach out to people I know who have been stationed, or currently assigned, there," said Stremmel. "I want to familiarize myself with the culture and people so that when I am on the ground, I can do my best to help them."
Team player at BCM
The BCM family back at home is very proud of Stremmel's service.
"Stephen is a critical member of our team at the Cancer Center," said Stremmel's supervisor Dr. David Steffen, director of the biomedical informatics group. "Obviously, it is a challenge when he leaves us for 6 or 8 or even 18 months at a time. However, we all kick in to cover for him when he is gone, because we all appreciate what he is doing for our country."
"Stephen is a very competent stand up guy, who has been a great asset to the College," said Ted Yank, associate director of administration for the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center. "We are happy to have him in the cancer center.