FALLS CHURCH, Virginia –
The Air Force is restructuring the Air Force Medical Service to advance Airmen and Guardian health and readiness. The move also provides better support and advocacy for Department of the Air Force priorities in partnership with the Military Health System.
The Air Force is doing this by introducing command and control authority in the AFMS and establishing two regional Air Force Medical Commands, or AFMED Regions. These intermediate regional commands will be overseen by the Air Force Surgeon General to modernize how the AFMS can better support Air Force and Space Force medical readiness priorities while integrating the Defense Health Agency authorities for health care operations in military treatment facilities supporting DAF installations.
“The Air Force has always been distinct from our sister services, from our structure and number of military treatment facilities to how we train and deploy our medical forces,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Miller, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General. “As the DHA and the Military Health System have evolved over the last six years, it’s become apparent that the AFMS needed to restructure to ensure we could better advocate for our equities and execute the health service support mission at our installations and around the globe.”
AFMS and Air Force planners are coordinating closely to solidify details of the AFMED structure because a change this large requires a united front and deliberate effort from all partners. The objective is to establish two regional AFMED commands with initial operating capability by Oct. 1.
“The DHA’s mission is complex and military treatment facilities at DAF installations are where the vast majority of our operational medical capabilities are assigned to support Air Force and Space Force readiness priorities,” said Stephen Mounts, U.S. Air Force Associate Deputy Surgeon General. “The aim with AFMED is to provide clear direction to local leaders at the installation on health care and readiness priorities to ensure they spend less time deconflicting policies and can focus on the mission and their people.”
In the years since Congress implemented the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and transferred health care authorities from the services to the DHA, the services have worked closely with DHA to manage priorities. According to Miller, AFMS planners analyzed Air Force concerns voiced by service leaders at the CORONA Commander’s Conference in the fall of 2022, and looked at DHA’s market structure as well as its sister service medical structures. They then worked with Air Force leaders to determine the best course of action moving forward.
“Having navigated the challenges of the MHS transition since 2017, our Air Force leadership asked us to improve our ability to execute the mission, and AFMED is the answer” continued Miller.
The AFMED command structure will improve the unity of effort across the Air Force medical enterprise by aligning service command and control authorities over the readiness force structure with DHA authorities for oversight and management of military treatment facilities.
“AFMED - employing similar authorities as our Army and Navy counterparts - will enable senior Air Force medical leaders to better advocate for Air Force and Space Force installation military treatment facilities,” said Col. Patrick Parsons, AFMS MHS Governance Liaison Officer. “This new structure will elevate the balance of medical readiness and health care delivery from 76 individual medical group commanders and wing commanders to two medical Air Force general officers, allowing for streamlined strategic and operational engagement to maximize health service support.”
Despite these structural changes, Air Force medical personnel should not see any impact on their ability to train and prepare for wartime pacing threats or to deliver Ready Reliable Care to Airmen, Guardians, and their families.
“AFMED will help us do things better while still honoring our heritage of working directly for and with Department of the Air Force leadership,” said Chief Master Sgt. Dawn Kolczynski, Chief, Medical Enlisted Force. “The only reason we exist is to support our Air Force and Space Force, and we’re confident AFMED will make us more effective while advancing our ability to operate with our joint medical partners in the MHS.”