Womack Army Medical Center welcomes new commander
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: January 8, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — The “crown jewel” of Army medicine has a new leader.
Col. John J. Melton took command Monday of Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg.
In doing so, Melton assumed responsibility for one of the “most challenging, most complex and most dynamic” health-care missions in the military, said Brig. Gen. R. Scott Dingle.
Dingle, the commanding general of Regional Health Command-Atlantic, oversaw the change of command between Melton and Col. Lance C. Raney. He had high praise for both men and the hospital, which he repeatedly called the crown jewel of Army medicine while referring to Fort Bragg as the “center of the universe.”
The hospital has a unique mission to support the troops, families and others on Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the world and home to much of the nation’s quick response and special operations forces.
Thousands of troops leave from Fort Bragg each year, destined for operations around the world. Womack’s job, Dingle said, is to ensure those forces are ready and to care for their families that remain at home.
Both men, Dingle said, played key roles in building up Womack following a medical scandal in 2014 during which Womack leaders were removed from their jobs following the deaths of patients after routine procedures and concerns about infection control that surfaced during an accreditation process.
Melton was a deputy commander and chief of staff immediately after the turmoil at Womack, working under the then-commander, Col. Ronald T. Stephens. Raney replaced Stephens about a year-and-a-half later and has led the hospital for the last two years.
Today, Dingle said Womack Army Medical Center is one of the top hospitals within Army Medical Command, with the highest cost efficiency, quality of care and patient satisfaction.
He heaped praise on Raney for his role in improving the hospital and its staff, citing several programs aimed at improving both uniformed and civilian medical personnel.
Dingle called Raney “an exceptional leader, an authentic leader who cares about the people he leads.”
But the outgoing commander said the hospital’s successes are not due to him, but to the its nearly 4,000 employees, both military and civilian, who work at Womack.
Raney said his time in command was the most rewarding of his Army career. He thanked the Womack staff and numerous community partners for their efforts in supporting the soldiers and families on Fort Bragg.
The hospital has one of the busiest emergency departments in the military and one of the largest patient populations, serving more than 140,000 patients each year. It is also home to more births each day on average than anywhere else in the Armed Forces.
The hospital is a great facility, he said, “made even greater because of people who work there.”
Melton made similar remarks as he was welcomed back to Womack, 18 months after he left the hospital to take command of Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas.
The colonel said he was excited to return to Fort Bragg and thanked the soldiers, civilians, contractors, volunteers and family members at Womack for their “unwavering commitment to honor our nation’s sacred trust to care for those who wear and have worn the uniform and their families.”
Melton said that Womack has two charges.
The first is to enable the readiness of local troops to “fight tonight.”
“The most powerful weapon system the U.S. Army will always be the American professional soldier — and this hospital ensures every soldier is physically and cognitively optimal to fight tonight,” he said.
The second charge is to enhance the resiliency of military families and the larger community.
“We are an expeditionary Army — and if you are not right at home, you are not right at work,” he said.
“Put simply, our hospital empowers those who fight and win our nation’s wars,” Melton said. “This is what makes us an Army hospital.”
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at email@example.com