Medical squadron recognized by outgoing commander

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. William Thomas
  • 374th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
As I depart Yokota this week I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about a few things that I have learned here and to thank some people publicly.
1. Never underestimate what your Airmen can accomplish: During this, my second squadron command, the 374th Aerospace Medicine Squadron team showed the very best attributes of our Air Force.
We deployed our own squadron members and other medical personnel to the fight and played a key role in ensuring the expeditionary medical readiness of every Airman at Yokota.
Programs under our purview got better and better. Our squadron's performance and program management was validated by "Excellent" and "Outstanding" ratings by the Air Force Health Services Inspector General inspection and our hospital received full reaccreditation by the Joint Commission on Health Care Organizations.
AMDS also played a key role in the medical portions of the Airlift Wing's Installation Readiness Response Inspection. Our key roles included deployment clearance, deployment processing support and emergency medical care--zero findings or negative comments.
Our "Team Aerospace" took home eight individual and two team awards from the Air Force Medical Service Awards program.
Great work team! I have been honored to lead you and I thank you for all the professionalism and hard work.

2. A really good senior noncommissioned officer is worth his weight in gold: I was very fortunate here to have a truly exceptional Airman as my squadron superintendent.
Soon after taking command I realized that my senior enlisted manager was truly super--completely loyal and dedicated to the Air Force mission.
He embodied all of the very best attributes of a senior noncommissioned officer--he cared for and motivated our troops and always kept the squadron on track.
If I thought about doing something out loud--he got it done, if he was copied on an e-mail--the task was completed, he handled potential problems before they became problems--and briefed me on his actions.
He did all this and still managed to continue taking college classes and be a great dad at the same time. Thank you Senior Master Sgt. Richard Bullock--I appreciate your excellence.

3. The chief of the medical staff is the hardest job in the medical group: The "SGH" job is extraordinarily challenging, requiring exceptional personnel and time management skills to coordinate medical staff of independent minded physicians from all four of the squadrons in the medical group. This position also works with local national and Department of Defense referral facilities.
All this must be done while balancing the demands for cost containment and access to care with training requirements, directives from multiple headquarters and agencies--while always maintaining primary concern for the well being of our patients and the quality of the care we provide.
Complicated by having no budget, no command authority and little support staff--it all makes for long hours and plenty of headaches.
Having done that job in my past three assignments, I initially had a difficult time "staying in my lane", but after watching our SGH in action it was immediately apparent that she was a complete professional and supremely competent.
It has been a real privilege to get to work with you, Dr. Catherine Bard--keep up the great work.

4. A tough boss makes you and the organization better. Always remember that there are more and bigger issues than those you can see from your level.
Getting the mission accomplished can mean working out competing priorities and trading in short term costs for long term gains.
Leaders at all levels have to deal with these realities. The stakes just get bigger and bigger the higher you go. Trusting that your leadership is guided by the Air Force core values when things seem difficult goes a long way in helping you to let go of questions and focus in task completion.
Thank you Col. Mark Presson, for the guidance and mentorship...I learned much. 

5. Our hospital is full of outstanding physicians, nurses and support personnel:
Our group commander has frequently said that "you never know when you might be the patient".
Paula and I found ourselves in that situation just over a year ago when she required a significant level of medical care after an accident. During that very stressful time I remember being surrounded by medics from nearly every section of our medical group, working diligently to make sure that she got the very best care--from the operating room to the radiology suite, through the emergency room to the intensive care unit at Ohme Hospital and on our medical ward through her rehabilitation and physical therapy.
Paula is back to full speed now, and we know that the care we received was exceptional and that the same level of service and concern is expressed to every patient that we treat at our hospital.
A special thank you to Dr. Ben Kam; the operating room, emergency room and inpatient ward staff, Major Chu Soh, and the physical therapy staff--you have really made a difference in our lives.