Lt. Col. Wendy Gray, 1999 Nursing graduate, featured on U.S. Army website

The article below was originally published by the U.S. Army’s Meredith Mingledorff.
A quiet woman stands in the back of the room. She’s the picture of calm as others bustle. Questions are rapidly fired her way as she offers solutions and answers on COVID-19 cases from the entire state of Arizona easily and without any apparent stress. As always, she started her day with a run, a meditation to clear her thoughts, preparing her for what will be another 16-plus hour day. If she is tired, it doesn’t show.
She is called to serve.
A natural leader, Lt. Col. Wendy L. Gray, commander, Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, is exactly who you want at your side in a crisis. Remaining calm under pressure is her strength. She is steady and resolute.
Gray joined the Army in 1990 without a history of family service. She saw the opportunity to pursue her passion for medicine with very little college debt. She says her mother inspired her.
“My biggest mentor and motivator was my mom. She’s always instilled in me the desire to do my best and seek opportunities for growth to better myself and my family,” Gray said.
Growing up in Anderson, Ind., Gray credits her community for inspiring her and supporting her. The child of a single mother, she says it took the village to raise her and her three siblings.
Her basketball coach, track coach, trigonometry teacher and Sunday school teachers all mentored her into wanting more for herself and her family. Gray credits them and her mother with providing her the tools for success.
From Anderson High School to Marymount University, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in nursing before earning a master’s in nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner from the Uniformed Services University of Health and Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
Gray thinks the AMEDD Enlisted Commissioning Program is a bit too much of a secret, and she’d like to see more soldiers take advantage of its opportunities.
The AMEDD Enlisted Commissioning Program allows active duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers to finish up to 24 months of nursing school while retaining their rank, grade and military benefits. As the soldier graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and passes the NCLEX, the soldier reports to Basic Officer Leadership Course in San Antonio to commission as a Nurse Corps Officer. The program has a 48-month active duty service obligation.
“I originally saw the Army as a way to get my degree, but I soon realized the diversity, loyalty, teambuilding, cohesiveness and opportunities for growth made it an outstanding career. I think these are our best qualities as an organization,” Gray added. “My husband is a retired first sergeant, and he will sometimes ask me when I might retire, but as long as I can still lift others up and support their dreams and careers I want to stay. I really have found my calling here helping others.”
Gray had been the commander at Fort Huachuca’s medical center for only eight months before she had to take the lead in the COVID battle. Her robust network of military professionals overseas alerted her to the pending crisis before it hit the United States. She activated her team and quickly surrounded herself with her medical experts. Her first stop was Public Health’s Preventative Medicine Team.
“This team is already accustomed to handling new disease processes that affect populations in dynamic ways,” Gray said. “I had to first ensure my own team was safe and postured to take care of the community, without putting our medical professionals or medical center at risk.”
Gray then found she had to use Army training to ready her battlespace.
“The flexibility, resilience, adaptability and determination my Army training gave me was paramount in this COVID fight. I knew I had to be inclusive with my team if we were going to win this battle, so I drew on their talents to determine our way ahead.”
Gray won’t take any credit for her team’s success. She names who she calls her “rock stars” immediately, and knows there are even more who were instrumental to success.
“Beth McMillan, Chief of Public Health; Dr. Melissa Rife, Chief of Pharmacy; Major Matthew Moore, Deputy for Administration; Staff Sergeant Kyle Smith, NCOIC of Operations; Major Cody Mead, Deputy Commander of Clinical Services and Public Health Emergency Officer; Lieutenant Colonel Devin Cazares, Deputy Commander for Nursing; Mrs. Jennifer Lopez and Mrs. Jennifer Rodriguez, Group Practice Managers; Mr. Ray Bragdon, Chief of Logistics; Mr. Brad Powell, Chief of Security; so many, I wish I could name them all. The team has truly showed up and showed out!” she exclaims.
Gray beams with pride when she talks about her team.
“I am so proud of these folks! I really have an awesome team!” Gray exclaimed.
She shows them appreciation with treats and donuts.
“Teambuilding is one of the most helpful components of military training,” she adds. “I need everyone to have ‘buy-in’ if we’re going to succeed. My training as a family nurse practitioner was valuable to ensure we were doing the right things for the right reasons and keeping the community safe.”
From the early stages of COVID, Gray grew her immediate tiger team to include pharmacy experts, primary care and adaptable behavioral health experts. She said creative thinking and inclusivity were key.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I am surrounded by talent and that’s why diversity is a strength,” Gray said. “Each of these experts comes from a unique background with unique experiences. If I limit who has a say or can offer ideas, I’m limiting our organization and potentially our success.”
She says this ensured her approaches to COVID and other health-related issues were proactive rather than reactive.
“My priorities for the medical center haven’t changed since COVID began. We have a state-of-the-art medical treatment facility as an integrated part of the greater U.S. Army System for Health while directly serving approximately 14,000 beneficiaries,” Gray explained. “We have to maintain viable partnerships with tenant organizations and local medical facilities to ensure we continue to provide high-quality medical care to our community.”
“Now we have to do it with additional focus on the safety of the medical team and the customers we serve. We have had to become very innovative and flexible to ensure the medical services are not degraded as a result of the pandemic,” Gray continued.
Gray has maintained the quality of care for her patients while ensuring the safety of her staff and the entire fort amid the pandemic. She is a central figure in weekly late-night town halls, taking questions from hundreds of interested viewers, coordinating with supporting agencies like the Chaplain Corps. and local, state and federal authorities.
Despite the pace, she still smiles and jokes with the commanding general, as they make their way through the crisis.
“Levity is an asset,” says Maj. Gen. Laura Potter, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence. “Wendy is an amazing, outstanding commander. I wouldn’t want to do these town halls without her expertise, let alone go through this pandemic without her leadership of our medical forces.”
Gray can’t stand to take the compliment. She is more comfortable running prescriptions out to cars in a makeshift curbside pharmacy. When someone mistakenly calls her a private, she says, “Yes, sir. How can I help you?”
The soldier realizes his error and stiffens up, but Gray’s humility is unwavering. She offers a smile from behind her mask and her eyes tell the story of why others want to follow her through a pandemic.
She reaches out with a friendly hand, socially distant but completely caring, showing the humility of true leadership.
“No really, it’s okay. How can I help you?” she offers to the silent soldier.
She is called to serve.
When asked if she would do anything differently or wishes she had chosen a different path, Gray says absolutely not. She loves the Army.
Gray hopes other young people will consider joining the service and recommends it often to those who seek her advice and guidance.
“The Army has turned me into the soldier, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, leader, follower and mentor I am today,” Gray added. “I wouldn’t change it for anything and am so grateful for the opportunities and knowledge it has provided me.”
“I’ll continue to recommend the Army as a rewarding career, and would tell someone considering our ranks to ensure they go into a field they are passionate about. They can walk away with numerous skills that will be valuable not only here, but in the civilian sector as well,” Gray continued.
Gray is a medical professional, but her impact on national security and community health at large should not be underestimated. As the commander of the medical treatment facility for Fort Huachuca, she is directly responsible for ensuring the Military Intelligence training pipeline continues as the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence produces professionals for the United States of America and its allies. Gray’s dedication and leadership places critical human capital in key roles worldwide, and when they retire to Sierra Vista, Ariz., and its surrounding cities, her care and impact continues.
She is called to serve.
Gray hopes others in her community will consider the Army. The service aims to hire 10,000 new soldiers in June.
Gray said a stable federal career with great benefits after the economic turmoil would be an outstanding opportunity for many who are hurting financially after COVID. Many industries have been devastated and unemployment rates are unusually high.
“I want others to join me and I want people of color to take more of these opportunities,” Gray said. “I am often the only female, and/or person of color in a room and I want that to change.”
Gray doesn’t force the topic, but if someone asks her about the current climate and concerns about race relations she offers her perspective.
“I understand why people are angry. I’m angry, too. I can’t watch the videos of what’s going on, I know I will become emotional, but these are important issues that leaders need to discuss with their teams. I start my mornings with my team in a huddle and we talk about what’s going on in the world. I want my teammates to have safe, respectful places to talk about these things,” she says. “I am a commander, I am a leader, but I know what it’s like to be looked at a certain way or assumed that I don’t know anything because of my skin color. When I’m out of uniform, I experience many of the same things others have, and I understand why people are hurt. I know that pain and I know others in our formation are feeling it too, but I am so grateful for the Army and the diversity we have. Here I am, an educated black woman, a commander, a medical professional, who has a great career, equal pay and a voice. I meet so many people from all around the world and they ask me, ‘What can I do to support equal rights?’ They call me from Germany and ask if they should come protest, and while I appreciate their care, I don’t want anyone to put themselves in harm’s way. If you want to help, get an education. Learn, grow, get experience and be the change in the world. Surround yourself with diverse people from different backgrounds and experiences, open your mind. That’s by far the best thing anyone of any color or background can do. The Army is great at providing experience for us.”
Gray is a soldier for life. She loves people and cares deeply about her service. She is integral to Army success and is the lead for Fort Huachuca’s COVID medical response.