Lifelong calling brings Fox's new commander
August 10, 2012
Col. William Darby never meant to be a Soldier, but staff and beneficiaries of Fox Army Health Center can count their blessings that 28 years after putting on the uniform for the first time, he has yet to take it off.
Darby became commander of Fox Army Health Center July 13.
Early mornings and long days helping out with the cows, sheep, pigs and crops growing up on the family farm in Fosston, Minn., prepared Darby for life as a Soldier, but it was never a career he thought would span nearly three decades. What began as a way to gain experience until more jobs opened up in his field, environmental sciences, after college became a lifelong calling.
"I never quite found my way out. You think you're coming in for three years and despite myself, it ended up being a really good decision," said Darby, who enlisted in 1984 as a biological research assistant. "Personality-wise it fits. The culture, the job, fits very well with my personality. Every place you go gives you an opportunity to learn, not just the technical piece but also the tactical and professional side of the military. It's been a great opportunity to not just grow and learn as a Soldier, but really as a citizen, as a person and leader, whereas a lot of other jobs wouldn't give you that opportunity."
Redstone Arsenal marks Darby's 15th assignment in 28 years, his last as chief, Concepts and Requirements Division, Directorate of Combat and Doctrine Development for the Army Medical Department's Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He has also served in Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, Bahrain and the Horn of Africa, where he worked within Force Health Protection and medical planning for deployed forces, where he learned not only about Army medicine, but life itself.
"It shows you that life is short. You really do have to have balance in your life," Darby said. "It shows you just how great this country is -- the people that serve, the families that they come from. And it really shows you how important the Army medical department mission is, not just in the deployed environment, but back here in the United States. We really are here to serve all of the heroes that put a uniform on."
Fox Army Health Center is his first assignment at a medical treatment facility in a garrison environment. While it will be a change for the commander who is used to assignments with deployable units, his previous experiences have given him a good understanding of the Army mission and how it is performed. Since arriving on the Arsenal three weeks ago, he has spent his time meeting with Fox staff to learn all the things they are doing to support the community.
"The exciting part is that unlike any other Army assignment that you could have, we get to see the impact on our customers every single day," Darby said. "Every encounter we have, by someone who either walks in, calls in or is seen through somewhere in the referral network through Tricare, we get to actually see how that customer service relationship went, good or bad, by the look on their face."
Darby's top priorities as Fox commander start and end with the beneficiaries, and include fully implementing the integrated disability evaluation system, championing the desire for all beneficiaries to live a lifetime of wellness, ensuring everything the medical treatment facility does has a patient centered focus, and optimizing that patient's ability to access Fox.
"Everyone who walks through that door should be treated as a VIP first and foremost," Darby said. "Our mission is to provide everyone that comes through the door the highest quality care we can, because it really goes back to every single one of those beneficiaries, they're heroes, whether they served past or present, or whether they're family members."
As a medical service corps officer, preventive medicine and public health is paramount to Darby, a philosophy that blends well with the facility's commitment to wellness.
"I never want to see you sick. I want to teach you things," Darby said. "I want to teach you to take care of yourself and recognize when you need care and when you have opportunities to make good decisions to keep yourself healthy."
Together with his wife and English mastiff, Darby is enjoying the move to the Tennessee Valley, where he hopes to enjoy some golf -- it's hard not to with the Links next door -- and dabble in stained glass, which allows him to indulge in his love for puzzles. In the short time he has been in the Tennessee Valley, he has liked what he's seen on Redstone Arsenal.
"I'm very impressed by the culture of this base and all the tenant organizations that are here," Darby said. "It is one of the most family-like organizations that I've seen on any post I've been on. I look forward to working with the team here and serving the patient population that uses Fox services."