Army promotes physician assistant to brigadier general, marking two major milestones

By Maj. Lena WithamMay 15, 2024

TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, HONOLULU, Hawaii (May 14, 2024)-- “Put people first” is the number one priority for Brig. Gen. Bill A. Soliz, the armed forces’ first active-duty physician assistant to become a general. He was promoted by Lt. Gen. Mary K. Izaguirre, U.S. Army Surgeon General, during a May 11 ceremony at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Soliz is the commanding general of Medical Readiness Command, Pacific and the director of Defense Health Network Indo-Pacific.

According to the MRC, P chief of staff, Army Col. Edgar Arroyo, Soliz is a trailblazer. Not only is he the first active-duty physician assistant to pin on the rank of general, but he is also the first “Hispanic American non-physician general officer and commanding general in the Army Medical Department.”

“Keep in mind that the first and only Latino that reached the rank of general officer in the AMEDD was Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez, the current Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs,” said Arroyo. “This was 25 years ago.”

Izaguirre has known Soliz for many years and said the Army promotes officers based on their potential and that she knows he will do great things. According to Izaguirre, when Soliz was enlisted he made sergeant first class in only 10 years.

“He has excelled in clinical and leadership roles as an officer, and along the way he has stood out as a gifted officer,” said Izaguirre. “Bill has been an educator, and he has also sculpted our education system.”

Although Izaguirre highlighted many of Soliz’ achievements, she said that in discussions with him, “One thing he couldn’t stop talking about was love for and pride in family members.”

That love and pride was evident throughout Soliz’ remarks. Giving thanks to his wife, Jackie, he said she made him the man he is. “She is my strength and my kryptonite,” he said, explaining that she was there when he couldn’t be for months and years at a time. “Thank you for being my everything. I love you,” said Soliz.

He also expressed his love to his son, William, and daughters, Army Staff Sgt. Jaline Soliz and Air Force Staff Sgt. Nalani Soliz. “I’m so proud of the man and women you have become. Y’all made me a better soldier, leader and father.” He said he also loves that his grown children still call him daddy.

Concluding his comments, Soliz said he is always on duty to fix things and told those gathered to never hesitate to reach out for support. “Combat ready care…this we’ll defend!” said Soliz.

No Soldier who takes the oath for the first time can ever know where the path will lead, and from the beginning of his Army career Soliz never considered becoming a general officer. However, the San Jose, California, native took advantage of opportunities presented to him and blazed a path leading to his greatest reward, taking care of Soldiers.

On his sixteenth birthday, Soliz’s father told him that in just two years he would have to start paying rent, he would no longer be on his parents’ health insurance, and the family could not afford to send him to college. When presented with this problem, Soliz knew he had to do something. He decided to enlist in the Army upon graduating high school when a recruiter approached him and showed him the benefits of joining. Soliz initially thought to join as a vehicle mechanic, but the night before going to the military entrance processing station his dad mentioned how he wanted to be an X-ray technician when he was younger. The next day Soliz asked about being an X-ray technician, but there was no availability, and he was offered the military occupation specialty of combat medic.

Shortly after completing Advanced Individual Training and being assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Soliz was deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm. During the deployment, he learned his education and capabilities as a medic were limited, and he desired to learn more to be able to help his Soldiers at a higher level. So Soliz attended the Army’s Physician Assistant Training Program at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, nine years after enlisting. He had many assignments as a physician assistant, where he took care of Soldiers from a medical standpoint and also advocated for and mentored them. Soliz wished to have more impact on taking care of people, and since he believed becoming a commander would allow him to do so, he became a commander as a lieutenant colonel. As Soliz grew as a leader he led larger organizations, including his current roles as commanding general of MRC, P and director of DHN-IP.

“I went for it,” said Soliz.

Over the years, Soliz considered retirement several times. He initially planned to enlist for three years, but found he loved the Army. It became his family, and he stayed in because, “The comradery is better than my high school football team. There is a shared understanding of why we serve our country.”

When he considered retiring after 20 years of service, “the spirit of the American Soldier” encouraged Soliz to stay.

“Soldiers have the same spirit I had when I joined, helping me drive on,” said Soliz.

As the MRC, P commanding general, Soliz oversees nearly 4,000 Soldiers and 400 civilians and provides regionally ready, globally responsive medical forces, health service support, and force health protection across the region. MRC, P provides command and control to Medical Department Activities, Medical Centers, Dental Health Commands, Public Health Commands, and Soldier Recovery Units in Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Republic of Korea with seven Direct Reporting Units.

He also serves as the first director of DHN-IP, which was stood up Oct. 1, 2023, when the Defense Health Agency realigned the former 23 medical markets into nine networks in order to improve healthcare delivery, combat support and enterprise support. DHN-IP oversees a joint, integrated health network with Army, Navy and Air Force personnel that provides quality care in medical facilities in Washington, California, Hawaii, Japan and the Republic of Korea. As director, Soliz leads more than 15,000 service members, civilians, and contractors that support the United States Indo-Pacific, Northern, Special Operations, Transportation, Cyber, and Space Commands.

Soliz said the most rewarding aspect of his career has been mentoring and guiding soldiers to new opportunities, and leadership development. He enjoys giving back what the Army gave him. His goals are to “Put people first. People are our most valuable resource.” He wants to foster a positive culture and environment, and ensure all Soldiers, as well as the civilians and service members within his command, are prepared to “deploy, fight, win.”

Soliz’ guidance to young soldiers and junior officers is, “Take advantage of opportunities. Never give up an opportunity. Follow your passion and have fun. But most importantly, never forget why you are serving in the United States Army.”