If there's anyone who's up for a challenge – for something different or unpredictable – it's Brig. Gen. Edward Bailey, the new Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick. Whether he has been molded by his more than 33 years in uniform to expect the unexpected, or whether that desire is simply innate is of no consequence. Speaking with Bailey, it's clear that he is eager to tackle the business of the day – whatever that business may be.
"If I had my choice, I'd rather be doing something challenging and different," says Bailey, in one of his first interviews since assuming command in late June. "At MRDC, this is just fundamentally different from anything else I would do in the Army – that's the excitement of the command."
Bailey comes to MRDC from Hawaii, where he served as both the Commanding General of the Medical Readiness Command, Pacific and the Deputy Director of the Defense Health Region Agency Indo-Pacific for the Defense Health Agency. In a move that adheres to his ethos, Bailey says he specifically asked to come to MRDC because the command varies so drastically from anything he's done in his career thus far. That commitment to the Army mission forms the foundation of his own personal leadership philosophy; something he's been honing for decades.
"The mechanics of the organization might be different in terms of how you deal or associate with certain types of personnel," says Bailey, "but how you lead everyone is the same: you provide purpose, motivation and direction in order to accomplish the mission." Those larger concepts trickle down to inform the ways in which Bailey deals with professional relationships as well. "I expect people to lead at the front by example," he says. "I try to be first in everything I do, personally, fully recognizing that I won't be first in most things."
To hear Bailey tell it, leadership is not just gift – which is to say, it's not just something you're born with – rather it is a skill that can be learned over time. He likens this concept to the world of college athletics, where the coaches who dominate their respective sports have often served under other prominent coaches at previous stops in their careers. In other words, quality leaders are often the result of a unique process where combining desire and awareness can result in new and exciting achievements. Perhaps most importantly, that equation includes a willingness to ask for direction and the capacity to learn from prior mistakes.
"You will never know everything that is out there, but you can ask people questions and lead people through that process so that we do things correctly," says Bailey. "Even if you don't know what right looks like – but you do know that something is not right – you need to step up, stop what's taking place and lead your way through it."
Bailey's assignment to MRDC and Fort Detrick can be classified as a homecoming of sorts – or at the very least a return to local roots. He originally enlisted in the Army from Maryland, where he was visiting family at the time, and later attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for his undergraduate degree. He then attended the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences – located in Bethesda – for medical school. In all, Bailey estimates he's spent upwards of a decade in the state at various times throughout his life. It is this familiarity with the physical terrain, along with the unique role of MRDC within the Army, that makes Bailey so vital to the current state of the command.
While his immediate focus is getting up-to-speed with MRDC's various functions and processes, he remains committed to the projects currently being developed in support of the Warfighter, including those focused on prolonged field care in multi-domain operations, the expansion of the Golden Hour and the transformation of the tools and technologies required to operate on the future battlefield. The command's long-planned transition to the Defense Health Agency is also a key focus.
It's that attention to detail that will undoubtedly serve MRDC well moving forward. At the same time, Bailey is keenly aware of how important the Service Members, civilians and contractors who support the command are in reaching those goals.
"People are number one here," says Bailey in closing. "People are number one in almost any organization, sure – but people are especially important here at MRDC."