FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. | Col. Aaron Pitney may be new in his role as the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, but he's not new to Missouri.
Pitney's Army career has taken him from his most recent role as the chief of medical readiness at the Office of the Surgeon General in Falls Church, Virginia, to assignments in New York and Hawaii. He's now back in the state that reminds him of “home, family and familiarity.”
“I grew up in what I would say are cities,” he said, drawing a contrast to some of the state's most rural areas.
Born in Hannibal in 1970, Pitney was raised in Kirksville, just half an hour's drive south of the Iowa border. He admitted that with a population of just 17,000 people - and another several thousand coming from a local university - that this made him a “town kid.”
He spoke endearingly of being able to return to Missouri, a state which, he said, reminds him of duty.
“When I think about Missouri, I think about — people out here are very humble,” Pitney said. “They work hard, they don't really seek out a lot of personal fanfare or credit for what they do. They just really do their jobs.”
Pitney's family is no stranger to military service either, he said.
“My mother's uncle was a chaplain in the Army, and he jumped into Normandy during the D-Day invasion,” Pitney said.
Pitney's father also served in the Army, graduating from basic combat training at Fort Leonard Wood in 1955. He served two years in the Army and the tradition was passed on to his children.
Following his graduation from West Point in 1992, Pitney studied medicine and completed a residency program in pediatrics at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. Charles Callahan, who would later serve as the deputy commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, oversaw Pitney's residency. He said he noticed a promising pupil from the outset.
“He is the only officer... that almost from the beginning I thought would be a general officer one day,” he said. “He just had immediately apparent leadership potential. That was clear from the very first time I met him and my very first years working alongside - and I got to see him in a leadership position but also caring for patients,” Callahan said.
And that same discerning doctor's mind is evident in the way Pitney speaks of his vision to lead GLWACH where keeping the patients and staff healthy is a priority that must be met, he said.
Pitney has children older than some of the new trainees who arrive on the installation, and he said the comparison offers gravitas to the duties he fulfills to the community and to GLWACH — a facility which he said was already on the right track before he took command.
“I don't feel like this organization is in some type of need of 180-degree turn or even a 90-degree turn or anything like that, but rather what I want to impart is that we are Fort Leonard Wood's hospital,” Pitney said. “I just want the community to know that we are here for them.”