Big Changes Coming for Army’s Busy Medical Force

Big Changes Coming for Army’s Busy Medical Force

Photo by: Idaho Army National Guard/Thomas Alvarez

The Army surgeon general said he’s both “incredibly proud” and concerned about the Army medical community, one that is hardworking and dedicated but on the cusp of big changes. 

Speaking Dec. 7 at an Association of the U.S. Army Medical Hot Topic titled “Holistic Health and the Soldier,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle said it is important that troops have confidence “to do things a normal man would not do” because they can depend on Army medicine to look out for them. 

People in Army medicine “love what they do,” he said, but they’re never really in a peacetime mode. “That concerns me. I want to keep them Army Strong,” he said. That means being a Total Army force with one standard of excellence that spreads the load across a larger group.  

“Medical readiness is a battle we constantly deal with,” said Dingle, who also is commanding general of Army Medical Command. 

Another constant battle is recruiting and retaining medical personnel in a climate where the pay and benefits may not be competitive with the private sector. Dingle said he regularly hears from people who feel rewarded by the work but could be earning three times as much in the private sector. 

There is a plan for the future, Dingle said. The Army has a new strategic vision that is focused on being “ready, reformed, reorganized, responsive and relevant.”  

The Army also is losing some front-line medics because of medical reorganization, which is concerning and challenging, said Command Sgt. Maj. Diamond Hough, senior enlisted leader of Army Medical Command. Efforts are underway to improve the skills and competency of medics. “This is absolutely a concern,” Hough said. 

The Army is looking at future structure, Dingle said. “Everything you heard is for one thing, to keep our people first,” he said. 

Retired Gen. Bob Brown, AUSA president and CEO, said it was fitting that the association’s first in-person event at its headquarters after COVID-19-driven cancellations is one covering Army medicine, which has been so important during the pandemic. 

The Army has been making big breakthroughs and innovations, which have resulted in higher survival rates for troops on the ground. More is needed, he said, and Army research continues. “We are all incredibly proud of the medical community,” Brown said. 

“What’s next? That is why we are here today,” Brown said. “The soldier remains the centerpiece of all the Army does.”