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Col. James McClain
Col. James McClain
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59th MDW vice commander's departing thoughts

Posted 8/24/2013   Updated 8/24/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Michael Joseph
JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs


8/24/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- After more than two years as a senior leader in the Air Force's largest medical wing, the 59th Medical Wing vice commander prepares to take his leadership style to the Washington Capital Beltway.

Col. James McClain, who leaves next week to take command of the Air Force Medical Support Agency in Washington, D.C., said his philosophy on military leadership will not change.

"Leading in today's military is challenging. The complexities and commitment can be overwhelming at times, but it is very satisfying," said McClain, who has been nominated for promotion to brigadier general and assumes command of AFMSA on Sept. 26.

For McClain, job fulfillment comes from solving problems and motivating others toward a common vision, much like what he did when he became vice commander in June 2011.

During his tenure, a massive transformation was underway in San Antonio.

Dictated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, installation support functions from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force were combined to form the new Joint Base San Antonio. Also, the integration of military health care services led to the creation of what would become the San Antonio Military Health System.

In the midst of these changes, McClain served as the chairman of the 59th MDW BRAC Transition Steering Group, which helped steer Wilford Hall's transition from a medical center into the Defense Department's largest ambulatory surgical center.

"The biggest challenge of this job is the sheer complexity of the medical wing, the San Antonio Military Health System and JBSA - the integration of Army and Air Force medical operations," said McClain.

A 59th MDW Process Improvement Committee grew out of McClain's belief that great strides could be made through addressing inefficiencies in the wing's day to day practices. Helping to bring an organization like the PIC to a complex environment was very satisfying, said McClain.

"The PIC brought structure and visibility, and furthered unity between our seven groups in the 59th Medical Wing. We sought to make things better," McClain said. "To get a structure and tracking tool established that allows us to make processes better, I'm very proud of that."

The new head of the AFMSA will also become the Air Force's Biomedical Science Corps chief and its Assistant Surgeon General for Modernization.

"My wife and I are both very humbled by the opportunity," he said. "I believe in continuous improvement throughout our lives. As a result, I am committed to being the best possible officer and leader I can be," he said. "It's also important to have self awareness. That's key in order to ensure you do everything you can to be the best for yourself and others."

McClain attributes his success, in part, to his assignment here, and the great things he's learned from being in the 59th MDW, and from Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Byron Hepburn, 59th MDW commander.

"The 59th MDW is a phenomenal learning environment for anyone in a leadership role," said McClain. "General Hepburn is a great senior leader and a great mentor not only to me, but to all of our commanders.

"In my opinion," he said, "that is one of the key roles of a commander, to inspire and lead from the front."



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