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Air Force's premier medical wing welcomes new commander

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux and Tech. Sgt. Tory Patterson
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Members of the Air Force's sole medical wing reflected on achievements of the past two years, as well as the team's readiness for the future during a change of command ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Sept. 6, 2023.

Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, commander of Air Education and Training Command, presided over the ceremony in which Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Harrell took command of the 59th Medical Wing. The outgoing commander is Brig. Gen. Jeannine M. Ryder.

During the ceremony, Robinson outlined the wing's many responsibilities and highlighted achievements.

"In periods of calm, in periods of natural response, and in preparation for periods of great conflict, you have one of the most sacred missions - the provision of physical and mental healthcare for the men and women of the United States Air Force," said Robinson. "The incredible 59th Medical Wing team delivered safe, quality care to 258,000 beneficiaries across the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center and 11 other clinics throughout the San Antonio community. Truly, as the face of the medical expertise and care for our people, the Airmen of this wing represent some of the most professional and dedicated members of our services."

Brig. Gen. Harrell is no stranger to Air Education and Training Command, having served at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, as the commander for the 81st Medical Group and Keesler Medical Center, from 2014 to 2016, and then as the Headquarters AETC command surgeon at JBSA-Randolph, Texas, from 2016 to 2018.

"The Department of the Air Force, and more broadly, the DOD, deserves and rightly expects from us to be ready to deliver combat medical capability and humanitarian relief anywhere in the world at a moment's notice," said Harrell. "We have a mission to accomplish, and many of them are no-fail. We will execute those missions effectively."

Harrell's most recent assignment was as the commander of Air Force Medical Readiness Agency at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.

"After 25 years in the Air Force medical community, you've arrived to lead what has been and will prove to be one of the most impactful organizations in the lives of millions," Robinson said in his remarks to Harrell. "The changing nature of the global strategic landscape is going to bring unprecedented challenges in the near and distant future. Under your thoughtful leadership and stewardship, I have no doubt that the 59th Medical Wing will continue to flourish and innovate, with tenacity and a focus on what's most important - our Airmen and their families."

The 59th MDW is comprised of six distinct groups located across San Antonio and is the Air Force's premier healthcare, medical education and research, and readiness wing. Most of the wing's military personnel are assigned to one of several readiness teams, building blocks to form expeditionary medical support hospitals and several specialized units, to include Critical Care Air Transport Teams.

The wing has the largest medical mobility commitment in the U.S. Air Force and maintains about 1,250 mobility positions. At any one time, there are about 100 medics deployed worldwide, executing a joint U.S. mission in support of global operations. Outreach teams are regularly dispatched all over the globe to respond to emergencies, assist in DOD contingency missions, and reinforce readiness training through real-world civil and humanitarian assistance missions. In cooperation with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the wing provides a wide array of training programs ranging from general surgery to emergency medical services administration. At any given time, there are roughly 900 residents enrolled in 37 graduate medical education programs, of which 60 percent are Air Force members. The 59th MDW is the largest of 15 clinical training sites in the Air Force, graduating an average of 750 officer and enlisted students in various dental and allied health programs each year.

At nearby JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, about 1,600 warrior medics work side-by-side with their Army counterparts to provide patient care at Brooke Army Medical Center. BAMC is the DoD's largest inpatient medical facility and the 59th's highly specialized trauma surgeons staff the defense department's only joint service level 1 trauma center in the United States.

Ryder, during her tenure oversaw the historical activation of the San Antonio Market - a unified military medical system focused on improving access to healthcare - and led 14,000 team members in support of about 260,000 beneficiaries. Her next assignment is in Falls Church, Virginia.