by Nick Minecci, USAG Public Affairs
Growing up in Baltimore, Col. Steven P. Middlecamp, the new commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Detrick, couldn’t wait to leave the area. There was a world to explore, and he wanted to get out and discover it.
“I went to Mount Saint Mary’s College not far from here, and in 1988 I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, then it was off to Fort Sam Houston,” he said, starting the journey that would bring him home 25 years later.
Middlecamp’s first duty assignment was as a platoon leader with the 142nd Medical Battalion on Fort Clayton, Panama.
“This was an amazing assignment, I went to the Columbian Ranger school, and was also a young platoon leader during Operation Just Cause,” he said.
Just Cause was the U.S. invasion of Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, in order to bring its president, Manuel Noriega, to justice for drug trafficking.
“We treated [Panamanian Defense Force] soldiers who were wounded and set up a treatment area for treatment of [Enemy Prisoners of War] during the operation, to provide them a daily sick call,”
Middlecamp said. “That is one thing we do as U.S. soldiers, even when we are fighting someone, we treat their wounded,” he added.
Following the battle, Middlecamp said he had an amazing experience working with members of the Panamanian Ministry of Health, travelling the country and treating the Panamanian people.
“I spent the next six months taking my platoon out 10 to 15 days a month, meeting the people and helping them. It was during this time I learned a lesson that has stuck with me through my career,” he said.
“I learned that as a culture, we, as Americans, can learn a lot from other cultures and how they do business. In Panama they do things in person. Now this was before email,” he said with a laugh, “but it is how they do things there. That stuck with me,” he said.
Middlecamp said that to this day he prefers the face-to-face approach rather than email.
“You get so much more out of the personal one-on-one interaction,” he said.
After an assignment as the Deputy and then Chief, Patient Administration Division at Gorgas Army Community Hospital in Panama, Middlecamp served in the 187th Medical Battalion, Fort Sam Houston, and then was assigned to the 67th Combat Support Hospital in Wurzburg, Germany.
During his time in Germany, Middlecamp deployed as the Task Force Patient Administration Officer during Operation Joint Endeavor, the NATO peacekeeping mission to Bosnia.
After several tours in William Beaumont and Tripler Army Medical Centers, Middlecamp deployed to Iraq in 2009 as the commander for Administration, 47th Combat Support Hospital in Tikrit.
His last assignment before arriving at Fort Detrick was as the Northern Regional Medical Command Patient Administration Consultant, Fort Belvoir, Va.
“When I got the word I was going to become the Garrison commander at Fort Detrick, I thought, ‘Wow, someone at assignments is bringing me home after 25 years,’” he said. Being so close to where he grew up, “spending 18 years wanting to get away,” he said laughing, is something he now cherishes.
“I am getting to reconnect with family, and explore the area, and there are so many changes from when I was here a quarter century ago,” he said. Being near family had a pleasant side-effect as well, as he added, “My family got to attend my change of command, so it was a chance for them to see what I actually do in the Army, and not hear about it.”
As the 40th USAG Fort Detrick commander, Middlecamp said he feels the weight of “the huge responsibility.”
“This is a sacred position the Army has placed me in,” he said.
“I want the staff here to know that before I came here I was told how they have some of the highest accolades in the Army, and I see my role is to make sure that tradition continues. Our role as Garrison is to understand what our mission partners do and how to best support them. The people here set the examples for other installations if you look at the awards and recognitions they have received. We will continue on that path,” said Middlecamp.