Op-Ed: The pandemic, Hurricane Ian and me — a doctor whose friends say I have PTSD
The U.S. Army surgeon general’s office, as you can see if you look hard enough, is a fortress.
It’s a large, windowless room with a view of a large U.S. Army base. There is another one, smaller, across the street, on which the office of the surgeon general, Walter Hale, is housed.
Hale’s two predecessors, David Satre and Stanley McChrystal, went on to become two of the most notable civilian commanders of the Iraq War, respectively. But the job Hale got instead after the U.S. invasion of Iraq was less important. It was the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army, then known as the Surgeon General’s Office of the Army.
Hale, who turns 74 this month, has been in that job for decades. He retired in 2016, but was appointed acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Defense Secretary James Mattis as the Trump administration was considering sending troops to Afghanistan. A year later, Trump decided to send troops to Afghanistan.
About two weeks after that shift, on April 2, the president asked his doctors, who are doctors for the Defense Department, what they thought about sending troops to Afghanistan. Two hours later, he tweeted at them, “Let’s not make a mistake.”
And with that tweet, Trump broke the silence that had preceded it for more than a month because he was now officially a soldier in Afghanistan.
This was a turning point for me. Prior to my appointment as acting surgeon general in March, after the first of these tweets, my career was going nowhere. I got a job offer and sent the Army medical director my resume for the appointment. I wrote her back that I was sick of the same bureaucratic nonsense that kept the surgeon general’s office in Washington from working the full time and also that my family felt so poorly that I felt I was being treated more like a schoolteacher than a medical professional. She said in reply that she was “really sorry, but she couldn’t help me” and she sent my resume back.
When I wrote back saying I didn’t accept the appointment, and I was not giving up, the