by COL Ricky Ortiz
I was asked a week ago to see if I could write an article for The Dustoffer. Without hesitation, I said yes. I was inspired by the opportunity to contribute a message that I hoped would have value. I thought that with all the current craziness going on, topics would flow onto the paper. They did not. The work week started, and I struggled with what to write. What did you want to know? What is important to many of you now? I took a few stabs during the week, but no joy.
Then, yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend a small 67J dinner hosted by Robe Howe. Nate Forrester, Sam Fricks, and Scott Farley rounded out what turned out to be an exclusive night of comradery. (Thank you, Rob, Nate, Sam, and Scott) I woke up in the morning thinking of how special the night was, and then it hit me. These guys and their very special spouses symbolize the excellence of the 67Js and the underlying secrets of our profession. Please let me try to connect these dots.
As the consultant, one of the top questions I get from our 67J community at all ranks is, “What opportunities are there for me?” This question is normally associated with frustrations of officers spending too much time in MEDEVAC companies; feelings that there is a lack of talent management, post-command opportunities, worries about promotion potential, or discussions of being a bastard child in both Aviation and Medical branches. But thinking back to last night, I recall listening to Rob, Nate, Sam, and Scott share stories—stories that impressed me. They talked about tough trials and tribulations. Their stories were of personal leadership challenges within MEDEVAC companies, challenges in battalion command and even at brigade command. The stories were followed by drinks and laughter. I witnessed these top 67J leaders highlighting their own unique approach but all with a common thread—leadership excellence through selfless commitment to duty and passion for Soldiering. I realized that their experiences directly correlate to many of the stories I have heard from past exceptional 67J Dustoffers who forged our Dustoff legacy today.
Yes, it hit me. It is about leadership. That is the 67J value proposition to the Joint Force, the Army, Army Medicine, and Army Aviation. 67Js are superior leaders. They routinely experience diverse and uncertain assignments and missions. They are groomed in decentralize operations and expeditionary mindsets. 67Js are forced to adapt with agility to uncertain and ambiguous environments, as well as complex and vague situations. They do this knowing that they have no-fail tactical missions and clear eye on the strategic ramifications of their profession. The output of all these inputs are 67Js who are comfortable with being uncomfortable. They are calm, collected leaders who are critical thinkers and arguably on-the-job trained strategic leaders.
That makes no sense, Rick. There is no way you can say that from sitting around drinking with a few good men. Well, I can say a lot of things after a few drinks, but in this case, yes I can. To validate my assertions, I assessed our current senior 67J populations and found ample proof. Here is what I found. Out of 19 67J COL/LTC(P) in the inventory 15 have or will be commanding at the O6 levels (79%). Keep in mind that we only have three authorizations for 67J at the Colonel level, but we have historically sustained a COL inventory exceeding 600%. That means we have consistently performed extraordinarily well in the O6 boards to include at least three colonels being picked up for O6 without O5 level command.
Let me try to personalize all this by connecting all that with what is coming up in the ranks, and it is hard to dispute the leadership excellence of 67Js.
COL Dave Zimmerman was activated to take 65th Med BDE this summer. COL Y. R. Summons taking command of 62d MED BDE. COL Rob Howe changes out of 1st MED Brigade Command in Jan 21. COL Dan Moore changes out of command of the old 28th CSH and is already on track to take his second (Level II) command summer 21. COL Tanya Peacock was activated for MEDDAC Japan, and COL Dirk LaFleur relinquishes command of PHC-C and takes over as Director APPD. While two LTC (P)s, Nate Forrester and Mer Carattini, are on their way to resident War College this summer.
At the Lieutenant Colonel level we have four 67Js going in or out of command. LTC Sam Fricks relinquished command of 61st MMB and will be the Deputy Director of Medical Evacuation Concepts and Capabilities Division in Ft. Rucker. LTC Scott Farley relinquishes command of the 615th Aviation Support Battalion and will be the SGS for III Corps. LTC Duryea will take command of the Field Hospital in Ft. Polk in March of 21. Meanwhile, LTC Brian Tripp was activated for O5 Centralize Selection List command in Italy.
Ten Major level commands have already or will change out this summer. C/2-4 MAJ Zach Mitchell replaced MAJ Ernie Severe; C/1-52 MAJ Matthew Clark will replace MAJ William Keller; C/3-2 MAJ Justin Stewart will replace MAJ Drew Wilson; C/2-501st MAJ Suzannah Morrison will replace MAJ Robbie Flowers; C/6-101 MAJ Doug Hill will replace MAJ Russell Scott; Flat Iron MAJ Brandon Paniagua replaced MAJ Amanda Charlton; C/2-1 MAJ David Preczewski replaced MAJ Jon Spikes; USAAAD JRTC MAJ Ralph Salazar took command USAAAD NTC; MAJ Chase is taking command from MAJ Todd Perry; and in USAAAD Yakima MAJ Jason West is taking command from MAJ Nolan Roggenkamp
We also have the following 67Js going to resident Command General Staff College: MAJ Cody Sneed, MAJ Drew Wilson, MAJ Tom Barth, MAJ Matthew Perry, and MAJ Amanda Charlton who is deferred to FY21.
Finally, 10 company grade 67Js took command or relinquished command of various CPT level company commands throughout the Army. They are CPT John Alderete changing out of HHC 6-101; CPT Robert Callahan taking a recruiting company command this summer; CPT Jeffrey Crook taking command of Honduras Detachment by replacing MAJ Cody Sneed; CPT Kenneth Danos took detachment command of USAARL; CPT Daniel Harritt took command HHC 1-52 Alaska from CPT Jeffrey Crook; CPT Christopher Howell took command F/3-25 GSAB from CPT(P) Jason West; CPT Armando Valencia took command of HHC 3-2 GSAB, Korea; MAJ Dawn Herron relinquished F/2-3 GSAB to CPT Teddy Ivanco 15A, (former FSMP leader in C/2-4); and MAJ Thomas Barth relinquished command A 2-501st to CPT Jennifer Zanghi.
That is a lot of superior leaders. All symbolizing the overall talent and character of a fairly small community hovering just around 290 phenomenal men and women.
Make no mistake about a few 67Js drinking and telling stories. The reality is that 67Js have infinite opportunities because they are proven leaders. Challenge them with any job, and they will excel. They will tell stories of trials, tribulations, and excellence. This does create a problem for them. That problem is called choice. 67Js will struggle with choice. Choice because they are talent that our Army wants and our Soldiers deserve. This is a good problem to have, a blessing to the hard profession known as DUSTOFF. I remain proud, honored, and humbled to be part of this exclusive group of men and women, past and present.