Navy Surgeon General Focuses on Readiness

By Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy surgeon general, and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

As we start upon this new year and look at our mission ahead, we need to be ready. Whether our job is providing patient care at a medical treatment facility or providing training to Sailors and Marines, we need to keep readiness at the forefront. We are in the readiness business.

This month, I would like to focus on the importance of readiness from the battlefield to the bedside. Readiness is job number one. Each job that we do has an impact on readiness.

When people ask me about Navy Medicine I tell them what we do. We provide world-class care, anywhere, anytime, above the sea, on the sea, or below the sea. And when we need to, we move on to land and complete our mission there. It’s our hallmark, it’s our ethos, and we are the pride of the country for the way we meet that mission.

We need to stay in the readiness business to stay sharp, lean forward, and be ready. And so I expect you to be on point, and to do what’s necessary to maintain that readiness. In order to meet our readiness goal we must make sure we take care of ourselves, take care of the ship or the mission, and take care of our shipmates. I am sure you have heard me reiterate the importance of ship, shipmate, and self if you have worked with me throughout the years.

We can meet our readiness goal through a variety of ways. First, we need the right education and training. The Medical Education Training Campus in Fort Sam Houston, Texas is a great example of that. All of our corpsmen go through METC to get the right training they need to complete their mission in whatever operating environment they are assigned to – whether it is on the battlefield in Afghanistan or providing care during a community outreach program in San Diego. The right training will ensure that we are ready to meet our operational commitments.

Earlier this month, I visited the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU-6) in Peru.  The incredible research being done there is another fine example directly supporting the readiness of our Fleet and force. The infectious disease research and surveillance they are conducting in South America enhances the health and readiness, not only of our Navy and Marine Corps personnel, but also that of our joint partners.

The outstanding work by our other Navy Medicine NAMRUs and Naval Environmental Preventive Units around the world also play a significant role in maintaining readiness not only for our Navy Medical personnel directly working in those areas but for the entire Navy Medicine enterprise with extensive vaccine research and disease surveillance.

Next, we need the right equipment to meet our readiness goal, including technology and clinical informatics.  If we have the right equipment and the ability to access electronic patient medical records, we are more effective in providing world-class patient care.

Finally, we need the right resources to keep us ready. Whether they are resources for our wounded warriors, families, independent duty corpsmen or directives and policies that help our personnel at MTFs and in the field, we need up to date and valuable resources to keep us ready to meet our mission.

Recently, there has been a disturbing trend on the use of synthetic drugs such as spice and bath salts, eroding the readiness of our Sailors and Marines. Using these designer drugs is like playing Russian roulette with not only your life but also your career and health. Let me remind you that there is a zero tolerance policy on illegal drug use in the U.S. Navy and it’s not worth losing your career, family, or sanity.  We need all of our personnel to remain strong and healthy to meet our mission.

Readiness also plays a major role in supporting our 21st century Sailor and Marine – one that will be ready both mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and professionally to meet the challenges of today. It’s what also allows me to boast about you anywhere I go, about the job you do and how you do it and the challenges you meet head on.

I am extremely proud to be your shipmate. It is my honor and my privilege to be your surgeon general.