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New strategy charts Air Force Medicine course

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- The Air Force Medical Service is in a time of transition, with new leadership, evolving readiness requirements and congressional mandates all affecting its future.

To address these changes and provide guidance and direction to Airmen, AFMS leaders met in July to chart a way forward for the organization. A new strategy was developed at that meeting, aligning AFMS goals and objectives to Air Force priorities and the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy.

The AFMS has three goals that guide its activities: achieve full spectrum readiness, strengthen the joint warrior medical team, and drive AFMS transformation. Each goal furthers the AFMS mission to “ensure medically fit forces, provide expeditionary medics, and deliver Trusted Care to all we serve.”

“Readiness remains the highest AFMS priority,” said Col. Colin Smyth, director, expeditionary medical policy and operations at the AFMS. “We are refocusing our readiness preparation efforts in line with the Air Force Secretary’s vision. We need everyone ready to deploy, today, rather than on a rotational basis. It’s as much a mindset as anything else.”

The 2018 NDS returns its focus to defending against near-peer powers. The AFMS joins that shift away from irregular warfare that has been the focus of U.S. forces since 2001. This means examining AFMS readiness and deployment models, and developing new models to ensure medical Airmen have the best training and experience to operate in joint environments.

“Interoperability is such an important idea for us,” said Ms. Ellen Greenwood, deputy director, manpower, personnel and resources for the AFMS. “We are looking for new opportunities for medical Airmen to work in a joint environment, like being stationed at an Army or Navy hospital. These opportunities let Airmen share our Air Force culture and learn theirs, improving communication and cooperation when deployed.”

Greenwood says that joint operations lead to an overall stronger force, without losing what makes each medical component unique.

“Medical Airmen bring what’s unique and valuable about the Air Force to the table,” said Greenwood. “It’s important to also understand what our partners bring, whether it’s another agency or another service, and know how they can work together and complement each other.”

The final piece of the strategy is driving AFMS transformation. This is the piece that ties the strategy together, and keeps the AFMS moving forward, says Maj. Gen. Robert Miller, director, Medical Operations and Research for the AFMS.

“Drive AFMS transition, that’s a lofty goal,” said Miller. “We have all 76 Air Force MTFs [military treatment facilities] transitioning to the Defense Health Agency in the coming years. We are doing everything possible to support that movement, including the recent launch of an AFMS Transformation Cell to coordinate those activities. We also need to plan how we will support our readiness mission and maintain our Trusted Care culture once the transition is over.”

Miller emphasized the centrality of readiness and Trusted Care in the strategy.

“At the end of the day, everything is in service of the patient,” said Miller. “Whether it’s on the battlefield, in the air, or at an MTF, the patient comes first. If we do this right, our patients shouldn’t even know that the AFMS is transformed, just that they got great care.”

Chief Master Sgt. Adam “Troy” McComb, chief, medical enlisted force development for the AFMS, sees joint operations and AFMS transformation as a great opportunity to improve care. He points out that the actual medical services provided across the Army, Navy and Air Force are very similar.

“Everyone bleeds the same,” said McComb. “The difference between the services is in how we deploy, how we get the care to the patient or the patient to the care. If we can get better at doing that by working together with our sister services and the DHA, then we owe it to our patients to do that.”