FORT SAM HOUSTON, Tx. –
Brig. Gen. Robert I. Miller has taken the "stick" from Rear Adm. William M. Roberts to become the third commandant of the Medical Education & Training Campus (METC) during a Change of Commandant ceremony held September 24 at the Student Academic Support Building auditorium here.
Miller is METC's first Air Force commandant, a position that also inherits the dual hat of Education & Training (E&T) director for the new Defense Health Agency.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb, Director of the Defense Health Agency, presided over the ceremony, while the Honorable Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, served as guest speaker.
The ceremony reflected the tri-service nature of METC which trains enlisted Army, Navy and Air Force students to become medics, hospital corpsmen, medical technicians or specialists in an array of medical fields. Elements of different service traditions were evident throughout the ceremony including a Navy boatswain's mate piping the official party "aboard", a multi-service color guard, and the Air Force tradition of passing of the flag. The playing of the national anthem, the five service song medley and other music was performed by the 323rd Army Band.
While introducing the guest speaker, Robb spoke about having been assigned as Joint Surgeon on the staff of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs prior to his current position as Director of the Defense Health Agency, explaining that from both vantage points "the concept and the reality of a joint medical education and training center was near and dear to my heart."
"And what Bill Roberts did during his tenure was to assure - and reassure, and reassure again to all of us that becoming more joint and integrated was not a threat," he continued. "It was additive, it was complimentary, it is a force multiplier. We still have our uniforms, we still have our unique missions, we still have our reporting chains...but we have even more in common than we have differences.
"Our strength is in our diversity, but more importantly our strength is in our unity of effort," Robb emphasized.
Woodson got right to the point in his remarks, stating that METC is one of the most important institutions anywhere in the Military Health System.
"It is at institutions like METC, like West Point, or the Naval War College, or Air Command and Staff School, where we study and learn from our experiences, and we share our wisdom with the next generation of military leaders," said Woodson. "And the next generation of medical leaders in our system starts their journey right here."
Woodson continued, "It's OUR job to ensure our medical teams understand each other at each of those critical hand-offs; that we use common processes and common equipment and know how to interact with each other. It's my job and it's your job.
"That's what METC is here for. That is why this institution was established. And, it's working. And all of you have made that happen," he stated.
Woodson concluded, "Thank you Admiral Roberts for both a career of exceptional service, and an historic role in leading this organization. And congratulations General Miller on accepting such an important leadership opportunity. I wish you both great success."
Roberts began serving as commandant of the largest tri-service integrated medical enlisted training campus in Department of Defense (DoD) history in September 2012. He also served concurrently as the inaugural Director of the Defense Health Agency Education and Training Directorate since August 2013.
As METC commandant, Roberts led the 49 program campus, 1,200 dedicated faculty and staff and 20,000 annual graduates through numerous achievements. Under his watch METC students continually exceeded the national average on board certification pass rates; positive comments regarding the quality of graduates were consistently conveyed from customers; and his steadfast efforts working with national and state accreditation agencies have ensured continued academic recognition for all METC graduates which is in concert with the White House veterans' initiative. He was instrumental in METC receiving s full six-year accreditation by the Council on Occupational Education, and h e has also played a significant role in METC affiliation initiatives with the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). For his exceptional performance during this period and throughout his long and illustrious 35 year military career, Roberts was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, presented by Robb.
"Whether creating a tri-service instructor training program ... seeking new academic affiliations, certifications, and degree opportunities for our students and instructors ... seizing service best practices and looking for novel course consolidation opportunities ... developing the finest, innovative, multifaceted and relevant strategic plan I have seen in my over 35 years in uniform ... taking care of our Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in and out of the classroom ... the service members, civilians and contractors who are the heart of this high-performing organization continue to excel at every turn," praised Roberts.
"You should be intensely proud of who you are and what you do, as I am proud of you," he added. "Thank you for this opportunity to serve with you ... the opportunity, not only of a career, but of a lifetime."
Prior to arriving at METC, Miller served as command surgeon and director for medical services and training at the Air Education & Training Command on Joint Base San Antonio Randolph, Texas. In addition to clinical positions, Miller's long list of assignments also include command surgeon at a major command (MAJCOM), chief of the medical staff at the facility and MAJCOM level, and command surgeon at the squadron, group, and a combatant commander levels.
Miller holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Massachusetts and a Master of Strategic Studies from the Air War College. He is a certified physician executive and a Fellow of the American College of Physician Executives, American College of Healthcare Executives, and American Academy of Pediatrics.
"You need to know that my military medical training began at USU (Uniformed Services University)...something I am very proud of," Miller asserted. "I am a product of joint training that focused on what was best in support of the patient to complete the mission irrespective of what color of uniform a medic was wearing."
Miller explained that since he was not an Academy graduate or a Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, upon entering USU his focus was on clinical medicine as he had no service specific experience to fall back on. But at USU, he also had the unique opportunity to learn about some of the traditions, customs and courtesies that make each service special. "The camaraderie between students, the esprit de corps was engrained within the USU culture, and that continued when I completed fellowship training at another tri-service program in Developmental Pediatrics at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.
"After a variety of jobs within the Air Force, things came full circle when I was sent to Stuttgart Germany as the Combatant Command Surgeon General for Africa Command in 2010. Once again, I found myself living and working in a joint environment - this time with key players from the whole of government - but the take home message was the same...together we are better. That is why I am so excited about the opportunity to be part of the new Defense Health Agency and METC."
Miller addressed the men and women of METC, telling them it is important that he earn their trust as the new commandant. "I appreciate the importance of trust in this joint environment, where our present and future goals need to be focused on our people, irrespective of the color of uniform they proudly wear," he told them.
"The mission and vision is clear, and METC is recognized as a leader in allied health education and training....because of our staff & faculty, the quality of our training, and most importantly, the end product - the finest medics, corpsmen and techs in the world."