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Stephens assumes MEDDAC-Alaska command

Col. Mary Ann McAfee, former commander of U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Alaska, incoming commander Col. Ronald Stephens and Brig. Gen. Sheila Baxter, Western Regional Medical Command commander, troop the line before the July 10 change of command ceremony at Fort Wainwright’s post headquarter’s parade field.
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David Bedard
Fort Wainwright PAO

Col. Mary Ann McAfee relinquished command of U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Alaska to Col. Ronald Stephens in a July 10 change of command ceremony at the Post Headquarters parade field.

McAfee is now a three-time Alaska and Fort Wainwright veteran. Her first assignment was as Chief of Surgery at Bassett Army Community Hospital. She later served at Fort Wainwright as division surgeon for the 6th Infantry Division (Light).

Brig. Gen. Sheila Baxter, Western Regional Medical Command, praised McAfee for her accomplishments during her tenure.

“Over the past two years, Col. McAfee has led her command with passion and skill in an unprecedented time in our nation’s history,” she said.

McAfee assumed command of MEDDAC two years ago, shouldering the responsibility of the organization during a time of momentous change and challenges, Baxter said.

To illustrate the command’s accomplishments during her tenure, McAfee removed three rocks from a rucksack and placed them on the lectern before her departing address.

“Two years ago, I placed three rocks in front of (the MEDDAC) Soldiers and asked them to push them uphill, not downhill or sideways, but uphill,” McAfee said.

The first rock represented the successful completion of Deployment Cycle Support for two brigades. MEDDAC provided DCS support to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, in preparation for their deployment to Iraq in October 2006.

Immediately after accomplishing DCS for 4-25th BCT, MEDDAC rapidly recouped in order to complete DCS for 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, upon their re-deployment from Iraq in November 2006.

McAfee said during this time, MEDDAC also implemented a U.S. Army Pacific initiative, mandating an automated neuropsychiatric assessment examination that provides a baseline in the event of a traumatic brain injury.

The second rock signified U.S. Army Medical Command’s Joint Commission, which convened in Spring 2007.

“This is our report card, not only to MEDCOM...but to the civilians of this country,” McAfee said. “That tells that we do quality medical care, on par, if not better than any civilian hospital in the United States.”

She said the commission was implemented with no notice while she was in Kotzebue for Operation Arctic Care, which provided medical care for Alaska Natives. Despite her absence, the command successfully navigated the commission.

This accomplishment dovetailed into the implementation of the Army Medical Action Plan, she said. AMAP led to the creation of a Warrior Transition Unit at forts Richardson and Wainwright. WTUs provide wounded Soldiers with a squad leader, a primary care manager and a nurse case manager to provide leadership guidance and medical coordination.

The third rock represented BACH’s move from an aging building to a newly constructed state-of-the-art facility. McAfee called the exodus of personnel and equipment “high adventure.”

“The move to the new hospital was flawless,” she said. “It was efficient (and) it was without injuries.”

During the transition period, there was a plan in place for Fairbanks Memorial Hospital to provide care in the event BACH was incapable of doing so. McAfee said there were no deliveries or operative cases performed by FMH.

“But I am deeply grateful to our community that supported us during that time and was prepared to receive any care that was needed,” she said.

Stephens assumed command of MEDDAC-Alaska during the sunny ceremony when Baxter passed him the MEDDAC colors.

Stephens began his service with the Georgia Army National Guard as an infantryman. He was subsequently commissioned a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from North Georgia College.

He attended the Medical College of Georgia under the Health Professions Scholarship Program, and, after completing a transitional internship at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., he spent a year at Fort McClellan, Ala., as a general medical officer.

Stephens then completed a three-year residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Stephens is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and is a licensed acupuncturist. He is a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit and recently served as the consultant to the Surgeon General for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Stephens’ awards and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal. He has earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge and the airborne wings of the French Army.

Stephens and his wife, Debbie, have seven children, Todd, Madelyn, Natalie, Caroline, Jay, Will and Lydia.

As is tradition, Stephens delivered a short address and was succinct in his message.

“I would like to issue a challenge to the Soldiers and civilians of the hospital to make a difference every day,” he said.