Sept. 10, 2014 -- VCSA's remarks at AUSA Hot Topic Medicine Symposium

By Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel AllynSeptember 17, 2014

Before I get into remarks here this morning, I want to first of all, on behalf of a grateful Army that has been extraordinary well served for half a century by a man of incredible stature and great courage. I want to provide an opportunity for everyone here in the room on behalf of that grateful Army to remind General Sullivan that our Army stands with him, not just this week, but always as we move forward just as he has stood with our Army. Let's give him a round of applause.

Good morning GENERAL Sullivan, distinguished guests, thank you for that kind introduction and you know full well how much fun I am having as the 35th Vice Chief Staff of the Army. In fact, I dialed up General Campbell, who has assumed what some would say is probably the most difficult command in the world today, serving as the new ISAF Commander in Afghanistan. He was giving me an outline of all the complexities that were going on over there as he was into about the 36th hour of command. Then he paused for a moment, smiled and said "but you know what, I'm in a better place than you." I did not disagree with him.

I want to thank all of you for coming this morning. It is early in the morning, and I am not going to lie to you, I am a little sleep deprived . . . Because due to this earlier schedule, I had to get up a hour earlier than normal and normal is pretty early to be honest with you to get in my morning PT, so please don't tell our Surgeon General that I did not get my required 6 hours of sleep last night per the Performance Triad.

But you know, I am one of those guys that spell knowledge with an "N" and I did that battlefield calculus. It is either death by heart attack because I am not keeping my body fit, or fading in attention at the 17th meeting of the day that I am at this afternoon. Okay, I'll pick life.

So as I prepared for this speech I went to the Army Medicine website to check for myself the new Performance Triad Application (that's an app for those of us who are somewhat challenged in the new world). I was impressed with how the Surgeon General's team has incorporated our modern technology and so I pulled the APP to my smartphone (those are those new iPhone things that I am still trying to figure out). It helped me figure out very quickly that since I had become the Vice I've not been sleeping enough, my PT regiment is in decline, and I was enjoying too many late night dinners at social events. So I wanted to thank our Surgeon General's team for really crushing my morale about my new normal lifestyle . . . but, to their credit, they convinced me to do laps on the stairs here today until I got back into balance so I wouldn't be such a hypocrite when I climbed up on the stage and talked to you this morning about living a healthier lifestyle.

But seriously, the APP and other medical technology are pretty remarkable and there a tribute to what a great job our Surgeon General's team is doing in communicating with the force about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

It is a real honor to speak to this distinguished group; many of whom I have been blessed to serve with in far off places where the nation has required us to do very dangerous things at risk to Soldiers lives. Tomorrow is September 11, and over the last 13 years of war I have witnessed the incredible strides that Army Medicine has made. I was blessed to be a Ranger Battalion Commander back in 1998 when we were implementing lessons learned from Somalia and taking the early steps in tactical combat trauma care at the point of injury and I'm not talking just about expanding the skills of our combat medics. I'm talking about training every Soldier to be as skilled as our combat medics use to be to provide point of injury care that keeps our Soldiers alive until we can get them into the hands of the experts. During Somalia and Vietnam 7 of 10 battlefield deaths were caused by bleeding in the arms and legs. Now we have transitioned to the combat application tourniquet and haemostatic dressings that cause immediate blood clotting. We have moved surgeons forward on the battlefield so Soldiers can receive care within minutes of their injury. Web collaboration through the joint trauma system enables doctors to collaborate around the world so that doctors treating a Soldier injured in Nimruz province, Afghanistan, can access the best medical care and advice possible.

An example of these advances is SGT Thomas Block, who was awarded the Military Times Service Member of the Year award in late July. SGT Block was badly injured in Afghanistan in late 2012. A suicide bomber in southern Afghanistan sent him flying 35 feet, shattered the right side of his face, collapsed his left lung, and badly damaged his legs. His medic was treating him within a minute of the explosion; he put a tourniquet on each of SGT Block's legs, placed 3 needle decompressions in his chest, and put a haemostatic dressing on his right eye that was profusely bleeding.

He was medevaced within 10 minutes to a forward positioned hospital where Army Surgeons saved his life. SGT Block is just one of the many service members who are alive today, and functioning near their former capacity, because of what Army medical professionals like all of you have accomplished. During World War II survival rates for an American with a combat wound were around 70%; today they are over 97% for those who reach advanced medical care (which is seldom more than 25 minutes away).

SGT Block's story is the front end of the fight, but what is equally remarkable is all that you have done throughout the continuity of care. Take Master Sergeant (retired) Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor Veteran who lost his hand in Iraq in 2008 and now has a prosthetic. When you shake Leroy's hand, he will squeeze back and shake in a natural motion. Many of you are likely familiar with the story of Brendon Marrocco, the first quad amputee to survive his wounds. Brendon has had a double arm transplant and is doing well, becoming more independent each and every day.

Providing the best medical care in the world to our Soldiers is important to maintaining trust between Soldiers, their families, and the Army, and trust as we all understand is the bedrock of our Army profession. So let's hear it for our Army's Medical Professionals around the world.

Army Medicine has delivered for our Soldiers and our Nation during our campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is leading its field in trauma care. But the focus of this conference, as General Sullivan highlighted, is not the past, it's about the Army's future, and preparing for Force 2025 and Beyond. Force 2025 and Beyond is an enduring set of measures to guide senior leader decisions and long term, developmental efforts. Accounting for lessons from past transitions, we are building a holistic modernization strategy to change the Army and deliver global landpower capabilities to the Joint Force. Force 2025 is not an endstate. It is a way point toward our Army's future.

Today I want to set the context for you about Force 2025 and Army Medicine.

First, it is important to remember we are still a nation at war and this morning 27,000 Soldiers are in Afghanistan and our presence in Iraq is increasing. We depend upon the world class trauma care and medical support for our deployed Soldiers and their Families at home . . . it remains our top priority.

Second, the world is still a very dangerous, and more complex and uncertain than ever, yet our budget has declined, and will get worse if sequestration returns in 2016 as is currently planned. I want to pause for a moment and express our deep gratitude on behalf of our Army and our nation for the commitment that the AUSA leadership has made to educate and influence the American public and Congress on the detrimental consequences of sequestration. Unfortunately, I'm personally not optimistic that sequestration is going away, so we must brace ourselves, once again, for extreme fiscal constraints. Added to our financial challenges, our military is under great scrutiny, justifiably so, for our medical care here on the home front.

We are the best in the world at combat trauma care, and I challenge all of us to transfer that culture, that passion for excellence on the battlefield to an equal passion and commitment in our hospitals here and around the globe.

Our Soldiers, Our Civilians, Our Veterans, and Our Family members deserve our very best . . . just as you deliver each and every opportunity that you have.

Third, we are challenged by an unhealthy American population plagued by addiction and obesity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that this could be the first generation of children in the United States that has a shorter life expectancy than their parents do . . . I don't know about you, but that scares me as a parent and hopefully as a future grandparent. Seven out of ten Americans will die each year of preventable illness. Approximately 75% of our populations of 17 to 24 year olds are not eligible to serve in the United States Army, three quarters of these because of health-related issues. Some of our best and brightest are disqualified because they simply are not healthy enough to serve in our nation's Armed Forces--a preventable outcome, and we must lead the effort to change our lifestyle culture.

As we transition and drawdown we have real opportunity to implement change, to lead change and gain efficiency. The Chief of Staff of the Army has given us clear priorities for Force 2025 and they include a focus on realistic training and investment in leader development. While the drawdown will be difficult, we are blessed with the deepest bench of exceptional military leaders this nation has ever known. Our Veterans have 13 years of wartime experience, are agile and adaptive, and provide a decisive advantage over any adversary and not only that, this Army has chewed up complex problems for breakfast for the last 13 years. This is a complex problem we must not only take on but we must lead the nation to solve; and we will ….

Many of those great leaders are a part of the Army Medicine team: in uniform, in industry, in academia and Congress. I challenge you to be innovative and work as a team as we plan for Force 2025 and Beyond. I ask you to allow ideas to flourish across our organization and teammates, and to set clear focus for the future. Brendon Marrocco would not have two functioning arms today if a visionary leader had not set a long term goal to develop the ability to transplant limbs. What should we be working towards for 10 to 20 years from today? That is a question this group needs to tackle and this is a great forum to start the dialogue.

AUSA and our medical leadership have assembled a great team here today. In or out of uniform, we all have a vested interest in the future of our Army, because our Army is a leader in our society, and is spearheading the effort to become a healthier nation. We must establish clear priorities, just as the Chief of Staff of the Army and our Surgeon General have done--focusing our efforts on building a System of Health, and affecting the decisions Soldiers make in their daily lives, then sharing and cooperating with civilian medical specialists and community leaders to help improve the well-being of American society.

The Army Surgeon General has a good plan for the future of Army Medicine and she will tell you about it in just a few minutes. We must proactively improve the health of our Army and our society. We will build a healthier and more resilient force that is prepared to react to what is sure to be an extremely complex and uncertain future. While I joked about it in the beginning, the performance triad is a key component to set the conditions for future success. This initiative promotes healthy behavior and informed decisions -- just like it motivates me daily to avoid the pitfalls of the unhealthy choices that seem to be an environmental hazard of service in the Pentagon.

Thank you, God Bless you all, and I look forward to any questions you may have.