Brooke Army Medical Center experienced a unique ‘first’ during the change of command ceremony at Fort Sam Houston, July 16, 2019. Brig. Gen. George Appenzeller relinquished command to Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter, making her the first woman to command BAMC in its storied history.
History within military units often goes unnoticed unless passed on by word of mouth. Being the first woman to command BAMC is no secret in the medical community, and it is significant to Harter personally and professionally.
“It is an honor, but just as importantly, it allows others to see themselves and opportunities for their future,” explained Harter. “Diversity is the strength of our Army and military. Everyone brings unique skills and dedication to the fight to contribute to BAMC’s success, and everyone has a leadership role. Being the first woman is historic for all.”
The officiating officer for the ceremony was Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Johnson, Regional Health Command – Central commander. Johnson added another unique aspect to the event. It was just 14 months ago that Johnson relinquished command of BAMC to Appenzeller. Later in the same day, Johnson and Appenzeller once again changed commands with Appenzeller taking over RHC-C. Johnson’s next assignment is yet to be determined.
Johnson recognized the 8,500-strong BAMC staff consisting of military, civilians, contractors and volunteers as being a compassionate team that supports and serves 250,000 beneficiaries in Military City USA. “The hard work that you completed to form an integrated health system, already sounds like the model we are moving toward with the Defense Health Agency,” stated Johnson.
Johnson listed a number of accomplishments achieved during Appenzeller’s tenure as BAMC’s commander, and he also welcomed Harter as the right leader at the right time.
One of those accomplishments was BAMC recently earning the Joint Commission Gold Seal of approval. It is only one of many achievements the organization has worked diligently to maintain as the standard for safe, quality healthcare, and a success shared by the entire BAMC family.
Appenzeller told the crowd that BAMC is the Department of Defense’s premier joint live fire complex. “What you are going to see (at BAMC) are service members exercising every medical battlefield operating system in a phenomenal way,” stated Appenzeller. “This team you (Harter) are going to lead is the best at creating ready medical forces, creating ready medics, and training medicine. You are not going to find a better group; and you’re going to do it in a city that is more dedicated to taking care of service members than any I’ve ever seen.”
‘Standards’ was one of the overarching themes of the remarks given during the ceremony. “As I walk around BAMC, the culture is one of a professional family committed to our mission, action oriented and standards based,” said Harter.
General David Hurley, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force and current Governor-General of Australia, once said, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Harter talked about the importance standards play for organizations like BAMC.
“We will remain a standards-based organization, transparent and introspective, and will sustain the world-class healthcare our beneficiaries enjoy today throughout this time of transition,” said Harter. “DHA has the same goals, quality care, education and Joint Commission standard that is the pillar for all.”
Harter said she was humbled and deeply honored to join BAMC’s exceptional team. BAMC operates the only Level I trauma center in the Department of Defense, with cutting-edge research, education, warrior and family care, and training programs.
“BAMC is truly the pinnacle of military healthcare and a producer of ready medical forces for the Department of Defense,” said Harter. “The world remains a dynamic place, and BAMC will continue as the cornerstone of global medical readiness providing critical capabilities for our nation.”