McQueen Praises Hustle, Drive of MRDC as He Readies for New Role
During a recent interview focusing on his two-year assignment as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, Brig. Gen. Tony McQueen took special care in answering one question in particular. After a lengthy discussion about MRDC's various recent accomplishments and its slew of promising initiatives, McQueen was asked to name the single most important factor in the command's success throughout his tenure.
"It's the people – it's absolutely the people," said McQueen, raising a finger in the air as if to underline the importance of his statement. "Getting to see the people across MRDC, getting to know them, getting to understand why they do what they do. The people here are phenomenal, and they could certainly be working with other organizations if they wanted, but they've chosen to be here and I am extremely thankful for that."
In a matter of speaking, it has always been the people of MRDC – all six thousand of them, spread across four continents – that have supported McQueen during his time leading the command. And now, as he prepares to leave MRDC to assume the role of Army Deputy Surgeon General, it is those same people he credits with aiding his own personal and professional growth. As someone with a service record that stretches across more than three full decades, he is keenly aware of the importance that individual focus and motivation plays in the overall success of any large organization. It's the reason he named "people" as his top priority upon taking command in 2021.
"Before I came here, I only knew MRDC and Fort Detrick by name – I had no practical understanding of what the organizations on this installation were doing," said McQueen, looking back with a laugh. "But the role I've gotten to fill, to execute, being a senior commander and understanding how to take care of an installation, how to take care of the people here – all those things have enabled me to grow as a leader. And I have certainly benefitted from the opportunities provided to me."
To be sure, the command has benefitted as well. The concepts of enhancing mission readiness and strengthening relationships (or, as he puts it, "telling our story and making sure people know who we are") have remained integral parts of McQueen's list of priorities, and steady advancements in those areas are a personal point of pride. The command is no stranger to transformation, having gone through several over the past handful of years. McQueen believes these experiences have helped the organization grow and improve processes – efforts that have, in turn, left MRDC well-prepared for the upcoming transition to the Defense Health Agency. From his perspective, the transition has also helped the command further develop funding avenues and identify key requirements.
Additionally, McQueen points to the continued participation in the General Officer Steering Committee as a key driver of success. The committee, which is comprised of senior Army leaders, routinely siphons key information regarding the progress and potential impact of specific capabilities up to the Army Surgeon General, who in turn has the authority to integrate said capabilities across the entire branch. The committee played a critical role in the flow of information and the development of solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which encompassed a large portion of McQueen's tenure at MRDC.
In terms of driving modernization, McQueen points to the command's work throughout the past 18 months in developing the first-ever Army Medical Modernization Strategy as a victory for the larger Army. Now signed by both AFC and the Army Medical Command, the strategic document is, as McQueen states, a "guiding point" to help move Army Medicine in the right direction from a 2030 and 2040 standpoint, as equipping the Warfighter with the tools required to succeed on the future battlefield has been an overarching focus during his tenure. Similarly, McQueen points to MRDC's beneficial working relationship with both the Medical Capability Development Integration Directorate and the Army Medical Center of Excellence as partnerships that have delivered an outsized impact on both the day-to-day and long-term efforts of the command.
"Having that level of collaboration with those folks has truly allowed us to identify the gaps out there that we are facing from a medical standpoint," said McQueen. "And those gaps have since become our requirements, and those requirements are what we focus our resources on."
As the military's lone medical research and development apparatus – and one with a $2.6 billion annual budget, to boot – McQueen has spent the past two years leading a command that is constantly seeking to acquire and appropriately execute resources. And yet he always – even now, even as he moves forward into a new role – is sure to recognize what he calls MRDC's most important, most integral resource: the people who perform the research, who asses the technologies and products, who review the contracts – in short, the people who enable MRDC to move at its current, dynamic pace. For McQueen, they are the ones who will drive military medicine into the future.
"The part that I'm going to miss and the part I'm going to cherish the most is the interaction with the people in this great organization," said McQueen. "It's an unbelievable team – not just here at Fort Detrick, but at all our labs across the globe. Truly, I just appreciate the chance to be a part of this organization during the past two years."