WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 10, 2016) -- The Army formally welcomed the service's 44th surgeon general Tuesday and promoted Nadja Y. West to lieutenant general.
West became the first African American to serve as Army surgeon general when she assumed the position Dec. 11. With her promotion, she became the Army's first black woman to hold the rank of lieutenant general and the highest-ranking woman of any race to graduate from West Point.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley hosted the ceremony held on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. "She has performed brilliantly in the two months she's been the surgeon general and I can personally attest to that," Milley told the audience.
Following the ceremony, West spoke with the press to provide an idea on where Army medicine would be heading.
She said her predecessor, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, had brought Army medicine to the point that it is now and that one of her priorities would be to ensure that the Performance Triad - focus on sleep, nutrition and activity - continues. She said though it sounds basic, "we want to take care of ourselves in all dimensions, then to the next level."
"Gen. Milley says readiness is his No. 1 priority… and there is no other number one, so my job will be to ensure that from the health care aspect, that I can enhance the readiness of our Soldiers, our Families and those who are entrusted to our care," she said. "You can't lead people if you don't care about them. It has to be genuine care."
West said that her mission was to ensure medical formations are appropriately agile and adaptable to meet the needs of the entire aligned force to include the Army and the joint force.
West was raised in the nation's capital and was the youngest of 12 adopted brothers and sisters.
Before she took the oath of allegiance, her son Logan and daughter Sydney replaced their mother's two-star shoulder boards with the three-star versions gifted by her predecessor to the applause of Family, friends and dignitaries. Milley then presented her with a personal three-star flag before administering the oath of office as her husband, Don, held the Bible.
"In short, she's in charge of tens of thousands of medical professionals and she has significant responsibilities here and overseas that cover health care policies and medical materiel," he said. "She's in charge of organizing and integrating Army-wide healthcare assistance for about two and one-half million people. That's a lot of work, a lot of responsibility and no one is going to do it better than Gen. West… and she also manages money; she's in charge of $11.8 billion."
West next took the lectern and spoke briefly about her large Family and thanked them for the support her brothers and sisters had given over the years. She said the smallest gap in ages was between she and her next oldest sister and that was six years.
"My Family was a really good team," she said. "There was a group who was all the same age and were friends in the orphanage, so they hung together and looked out for each other… that was a good environment to grow up.
"I think the message that sends is that there's no limit [to] what you can do; what you can accomplish once you put your mind to it," she continued. "No matter what your beginnings are, you can aspire to be anything you want."
West is a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where she earned a bachelor of science in engineering. She followed up by earning her doctorate of medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
West flew to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Wednesday, to formally assume command of U.S. Army Medical Command.