JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Washington – A group of six highly-skilled medical Advisors huddle around a desk in the “hammer head” section of the 6th Battalion Medical Section of 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade. The discussion centers on the response to COVID-19. At the huddle’s focal point sits Maj. Kimberley Maxwell, the Battalion Physician and Brigade Medical Coordinator; her Army pedigree has perfectly prepared her for this moment.
A few days earlier, on her way in to work to begin a demanding two-hour morning workout session, she noticed a car stopped alongside the road with a driver in distress at McChord Field. Maxwell seamlessly transitioned into what she was trained to do, stabilizing the driver until emergency medical services arrived. The driver recovered and Maxwell’s day continued.
Maxwell shrugs it off, a highly-trained physician and marathon runner comfortable in chaos, but her battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jeremiah O’Connor, interjects, “Maj. Maxwell's combination of expertise, fitness, interpersonal skill, and problem solving, in my opinion, make her the ideal Advisor.”
Maxwell’s story begins in Sebastian, Florida, where her reputation as an elite runner led to a courtship with the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Falling in love with the mission and the atmosphere, Maxwell applied and was accepted.
“During my junior year at USMA, I did a semester exchange at the Air Force Academy with some really incredible physicians,” Maxwell said. “Some professors there encouraged me to think outside of what I thought was possible.”
The experience empowered Maxwell to apply to medical school. Against the odds, Maxwell was given a deferral by the Army to attend medical school and she began her studies at the prestigious Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“When I graduated, I matched into family medicine, and trained at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg,” Maxwell said. “I was the chief resident there and I got to be a peer leader. I really worked within the residency to affect change.”
Change became a drum beat for Maxwell, as she traveled next to Vicenza, Italy and then onto Fort Campbell where she became the Brigade Surgeon for one of the Army’s most storied units, the “Rakkasans” of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
“You think you know what the Army is until you're in a unit where you are executing all of those things that you’ve only seen in photos,” Maxwell said. “I was actually using skills that I had heard about in a classroom and I was seeing it done every day."
Wanting to share this expertise, Maxwell came to the newly-formed 5th SFAB and hit the ground running, just six months into her time serving as the medical staff coordinator, the COVID-19 pandemic gripped JBLM. Maxwell and her team got the call.
“JBLM Leadership asked us to provide recommendations regarding installation gyms which were a strategic readiness concern,” Maxwell said. “Keeping the gyms open was dangerous, but closing the gyms also has some risks as well, we were able to put together, on short notice, an assessment team to give informed recommendations to leadership.”
The assessment team included the Brigade Nurse Advisor, Capt. Kelly Spencer. Spencer works side by side with Maxwell providing care to the highly-trained Advisors who serve on the SFAB.
“Honestly, I feel honored to be part of the 5th SFAB Medical Advising Team with Maj. Maxwell,” Spencer said. “She recognizes the importance of the advising mission here at home and across the globe, while balancing the medical readiness needs of the Soldiers in the unit.”
Maxwell’s performance as an Advisor doesn’t surprise 5th SFAB Brigade Surgeon Lt. Col. Michael Moore.
"Kim’s character and drive define her team's accomplishments and pursuit of excellence,” Moore said. “She enhances the interactions of six highly-skilled medical officers providing comprehensive medical support from the soldier/family level to the national level, as needed."
The SFAB concept involves soldiers serving in small highly trained, physically fit advisor teams empowered by the tenets of mission command to execute operations in remote environments around the world. The 5th SFAB Commander, Col. Curtis Taylor, thinks Maxwell fits the bill.
“Maj. Maxwell has demonstrated what can happen when exceptionally talented officers are given the freedom to innovate and develop creative solutions to complex problems,” Taylor said. “Since the day she arrived, she has been pushing the boundaries of convention and attacking challenges. She is precisely the kind of leader we need today to face the uncertainty of tomorrow.”