White Sands Missile Range welcomed McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic Commander Lt. Col. Aaron Braxton II on June 27. In the following interview he talks about why he serves, his priorities and goals for McAfee.
What led you to join the Army?
My father served in Vietnam and he spoke often about his experiences so my connection to military service has always been a part of my long-term goal - to serve my country.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the medical field?
Prior to pursuing a career in the medical field, I served as a Chemical Dependency, Addiction, and Mental Health Practitioner as well as a School Counselor (K-12) as an educator many years ago. Also, I served as a weekend warrior for the Army Reserve but as a result of 9/11, I join the U.S. Army full-time, which was complementary to my education and training. I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Care Administration and graduate degrees in School Counseling and Health Information Management as well as an Educational Specialist Degree in Therapeutic Counseling. So as you can see, my road traveled has been
Where are you coming from (last assignment)?
I recently served as the Executive Officer to the Deputy Commanding General (Operations), U.S. Army Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, TX.
Where is home for you? I am a native of Greenville, Mississippi.
What are your goals for McAfee and what do you hope to accomplish? I have six focus overarching priorities for the next year. They are:
- Readiness, which is Our #1 Priority
- Medical support to WSMR's Nuclear Surety Program
- To deliver safe, high quality healthcare while maintaining a healthy -- ready force
- Bataan Memorial Death March Operations
- To take care of ourselves, each other, and those we are entrusted to care for
- Effectively utilize existing capacity to deliver health care
What have you learned from previous leadership roles?
I have served in a multitude of staff and leadership positions throughout my 23 years of federal service for the Department of the Army (DA), and the Army Medical Department (AMEDD). I have learned as a leader, one of the greatest lessons of LIFE is that nothing will change unless you change and nothing will get better unless you get better because I submit to you that it's NOT about your circumstance but in fact the level of effort you put into whatever you do; whether it's a relationship to be built, partnership to grow, or commitment to your profession. Each of us has 24 hours in a day of which we sleep on average about six hours, which leaves only 18 hours left. I always ask the question -- how do we use our 18 hours in a day. I believe we wake up with two doors called life -- the door of possibility and the door of regret and I know which door I choose every morning (possibility). I try to live life to the fullest by focusing on positive things by working hard, staying positive, and get up early -- because it's the best part of the day. I am optimistic in leading this command because of my resiliency, creativity, and initiative, which have proven to be effective tools in my leadership capabilities. I see this command as a tremendous responsibility, but more importantly; as a privilege and opportunity to serve. LTG (RET) Mike Steele once said "when accomplishing the mission and taking care of our People and their Families conflict, good leaders find ways to do both" so we often need to be reminded that life is about service to others -- Mission/People.
What do you consider some of your major accomplishments?
I think this is a loaded question because my major accomplishments are personal and professional in nature. I have a wonderful wife, Lakesha and two loving kids, Aaron and Ethan that support me in serving my country as a Soldier and health care professional. If I had to choose one recent accomplishment it would be assisting the Patient Administration Division (PAD) Consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General with developing the plan to train the Army's PAD 68G Enlisted Corps as certified medical coders through the American Academy of Professional Coders when I was assigned as Director, Patient Administration Systems and Biostatistics Activity at the U.S. Army Medical Command. This program provides 68Gs with civilian certification in medical coding in order to build the bench and fill a severe personnel shortage in civilian medical coders across the Army Medical Department.
What do you think of WSMR?
My family and I are excited and grateful to be a part of the White Sands Missile Range Community. The WSMR and McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic is a great place to work and plays a huge role in maintaining Army readiness and the Defense Health Agency's mission. 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, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, White Sands Missile Range, and the Regional Health Command -- Central team.
What do you like to do during your free time?
I mostly coach youth sports during my free time as well as watching family movies. My family and I live a very simple life, which center on family events like fishing, sporting activities, movies and date night with only my wife and I (smile).
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I believe people will be surprised to know that I played tennis in college on a fulltime scholarship even though I played multiple sports in high school, which included football, basketball and baseball and tennis.