New Medical Group commander settles in with Air Force family

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon White
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
The 341st Medical Group's new commander is farther away from home than some of her previous assignments, but still close to her Air Force family. 

Col. Leslie Dixon arrived to Malmstrom from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where she successfully co-authored the "MacDill 65" health plan, the framework for TRICARE Plus, DOD's healthcare plan for patients age 65 and older. 

Colonel Dixon began her career as she earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Iowa in 1985 in Iowa City, Iowa. She spent her down time with her husband, riding a Kawasaki motorcycle to local reservoirs and fishing local ponds. 

She then pursued her master's degree in health administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and served a nine-month residency at the Tuskegee VA hospital. 

While at the hospital, Colonel Dixon helped stand up a VA Outreach Clinic, which provided outpatient care for veterans closer to their residences, and caught a glimpse of what life might be like in the military. 

"I worked with a man who held an adjunct professorship at the University of Alabama, who was also a Medical Service Corps officer," Colonel Dixon said. "He told me what it was like, and I was looking for an opportunity to have instant responsibility." 

The college student applied to the MSC and was accepted. She was then stationed at Maxwell AFB, Ala., near family, and her hometown, Thomasville, Ala. 

"I was very fortunate. My kids could still see their grandparents and maintain a family connection," she said. 

The commander then rose through the officer ranks as she was stationed at Keesler AFB, Miss., working with TRICARE, taking on duties of a staff officer at Scott AFB, and gaining leadership skills as an operations officer at Andrews AFB, Md. 

"I worked long hours at Andrews, 12 to 14 hours a day, but it was exciting because I was learning so much," Colonel Dixon said. 

Colonel Dixon's favorite moment in her career aside from taking command of the 341st MDG, was her first squadron command at Pope AFB, NC. 

"We had a huge mobility mission with C-130's and A-10's. It was a small group, people had to come together to do well, and we had to make sure our deploying Airmen were ready to go," she said. 

Of the Airmen stationed at Pope, 40 percent deployed, and during her command Colonel Dixon learned the importance of speaking to junior ranking Airmen in a small unit personally and the strength of the Air Force family. 

"You need eyeball-to-eyeball leadership if you want to deliver a message. You can't deliver a message through an e-mail," she said. 

The largest challenge the colonel faced in her life was the loss of her husband to a car accident during her time at Pope AFB. 

"I was taught about what someone can do when a unit loses someone, but what about when that person is a spouse," she said. "The extended Air Force family was something I heard of before, but when you lose someone that close, you really witness the support it provides. My secretary was wonderful, she really kept me going, and people from my command came by to help do things around the house and take care of my house when I was out of town with family." 

This element of support is involved with one of the commander's favorite movies as well.
"In the movie, We Were Soldiers, people would receive a note at the post office if their loved one was killed in combat. It was very impersonal. The wife of the main character in the movie decides to hand deliver them herself. It was the best part of the movie, and it was a good thing to see her take that on as her mission," Colonel Dixon said. "She wanted a human face to tell them they lost their loved one." 

The commander's most memorable moment was pinning on O-6 because the person who pinned on her rank and swore her in was her first mentor in her Air Force career, and also pinned her when she was promoted to major, she said. 

"Lt. Col. Fred Hannan is really into mentorship. He gave me my first taste of mentorship and has mentored me throughout my career. As I progressed in my career, I met more and more people willing to mentor me. Mentorship is a passion for me, because people can come into the Air Force, do well and serve well, but making decisions and priorities is where mentoring comes in," she said. 

Colonel Dixon's goals at Malmstrom include making sure people absolutely understand their role in the mission and what they bring to the fight, she said. 

"If I know why I'm here, it gives me purpose. Whether serving the mission here or the mission in Afghanistan, my youngest Airman needs to understand how he or she is engaged with the mission," Colonel Dixon said. "When people know their purpose, it helps them succeed. People should think about whether they did their best to take care of their patients." 

The commander also said people need courage to lead at every level because they impact the mission at every level. 

"I expect leadership from everyone, including my youngest Airman. I need them to have the courage to say something is not right. If someone is doing something that is wrong, call your first sergeant or someone in your chain of command. Young folks want to belong, and it may make you unpopular, but if you give up a little integrity today, you won't have any tomorrow. Do not be a bystander," Colonel Dixon said. 

While at Malmstrom, the commander hopes to balance her on-duty hours with off-duty bicycle rides, walks with her 18-month-old Golden retriever, Charlie, do some golfing with a new set of clubs she picked up in Japan, and "fish, fish, and fish some more" with a fly rod her husband had packed away. 

"I'm looking forward to being here three years," Colonel Dixon said while knocking on wood in jest. "I'm also adding a 341st MDG coin to my shadow box and I hope to deploy following my assignment here."