Womack's Former Commander is Army's Newest General Officer

Ronald Stephens, now a brigadier general. (U.S. Army photo)
Ronald Stephens, now a brigadier general. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army's newest general officer faced a daunting task at Fort Bragg on Tuesday.

During a ceremony in which he became a brigadier general, Ronald T. Stephens tried to avoid what he called his "least favorite" topic: himself.

So the promotion of the former Womack Army Medical Center commander, now the top Army medical officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, became a family affair.

His wife, Debbie, and mother, Janelle, replaced the shoulder boards with his new rank on his jacket.

His daughters Natalie and Madelyn fixed his new epaulets to his shirt.

The youngest daughter, Lydia, presented him with a new beret with his new rank.

His son, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Todd, administered the oath and gave Stephens his first salute as a general officer.

Yet another daughter, Caroline, presented him with his general officer belt.

Another son, Jay, presented his father with his general officer flag, showing a single star to denote Stephens' rank.

And finally, the youngest son, Will, gave his father a one-star plate to mark Stephens' official vehicle.

Other family traveled from Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and as far as Michigan. Looking out to them, Stephens thanked them and his Fort Bragg family for their support over the years and their help in reaching his new rank.

"Thank you," he said. "I love you."

'Right the ship'

Stephens is credited with helping to "right the ship" at Womack after Army medical leaders removed a previous commander amid a loss of "trust and confidence."

Earlier this year, he left Fort Bragg to become deputy commanding general of Regional Health Command Pacific. That organization is based in Hawaii, but Stephens is posted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to oversee Army medicine on the West Coast and Alaska.

He chose Fort Bragg for his promotion to be close to family and the installation where the family has spent their most time.

"This is home for our family," he said. "This is exactly what I wanted."

Stephens said his time at Fort Bragg, and specifically at Womack Army Medical Center, helped prepare him for his position in Washington.

"Incredible teamwork led to our success" at Womack, Stephens said, adding that he wouldn't forget that he needed to rely on and trust others to accomplish the Army's mission.

"If you want to go fast, go alone," he said. "If you want to go far, go together."

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, hosted the promotion.

Townsend praised Stephens as being among Army medicine's best. He noted that to become a brigadier general takes a "series of rare miracles" and that many good officers never reach the rank.

Stephens is one of the lucky few, Townsend said, but he wagered that the promotion would not be the last for him.

"My prediction is there are more promotions and higher positions in your future," he said.

Stephens said that wasn't necessarily his goal.

He was commissioned in 1986 from North Georgia College and joined active duty in 1990 after attending Medical College of Georgia. At the time, he had a 12-year obligation to meet.

When that was over, Stephens said he felt like he was making a difference and learning a lot. He decided to stay in the Army until that was no longer the case.

"My goal has ultimately been to continue to serve so long as I'm making a difference," he said.

Sporting his new rank, Stephens joked that the uniform felt hotter than before.

But, he said, it wouldn't change him or his goals.

"I'll still be me. I'll still be Ron Stephens. I'll still be Debbie's husband, and I'll still be the father of seven children and I'll still be from Monroe, Georgia," he said.

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