Some things may cause Col. Erik Rude to wake up in the middle of the night, but one thing he said he never worried about was clinic leadership at White Sands Missile Range and its broad and diverse healthcare mission encompassing 3,200 square miles (roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island) and serving as the Emergency Response Team for Nuclear Accident/Incident Response Assistance.
That's because with Lt. Col. Kirsten Swanson leading the McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic, "she takes care of that every," said Rude, Commander of William Beaumont Army Medical Center which the McAfee Clinic falls under.
Rude made his remarks during a June 27, 2019, change of command ceremony honoring Swanson as she departs after two years of command, and welcoming Lt. Col. Aaron Braxton II with full confidence of continuing to lead with the same level of excellence.
Rude cited Swanson for her commitment to Army values, particularly the values of loyalty and trust displayed in putting the needs of her patients and Soldiers before herself. Which was verified, he noted, with McAfee recently awarded for leading the Army in overall patient satisfaction scores of 100 percent for five of the past six months.
Swanson has also led the charge in McAfee meeting the new Army standard for installations ensuring that 90 percent of their Soldiers are medically ready to deploy to meet their wartime mission.
Swanson likened the effort of her clinic team to succeed to the 1962 speech by President John F. Kennedy to persuade the American people to support the effort to put a man on the moon:
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too."
His words still resonate today, said Swanson. "Thank you Team McAfee, Team WSMR and all of our partners for choosing to go to the moon, every day in healthcare, assessing, educating and supporting, and doing so many things, not because this is easy, but because this is hard, because that challenge is one we are willing together to accept … because they were hard and right for our military and mission."
And Swanson said she is confident of the way forward for the clinic under the leadership of her successor. "Brax, you will take us to the next level."
In his first remarks as the new commander, Braxton said he intends to carry on the McAfee legacy.
"It is a great honor to join the ranks of those that have served in the historic McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic. I see this command as a tremendous responsibility, but more importantly, as a privilege and opportunity to serve … for there is no better place to serve, to lead, to train, to focus, and to ensure readiness of the force than here as part of the McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic."
Braxton assured Swanson her good work would continue on.
"Your legacy will carry on," said Braxton, a Mississippi native who enlisted in the Army in 1996 as a transportation specialist before receiving a direct commission while attending Mississippi State University in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps in 2000. "I will do all I can to live up to all your expectations."