By Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, USN (Ret.)
The leader of Washington State’s COVID-19 health response team is a MOAA life member who previously ran the Defense Health Agency.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee appointed Navy Vice Adm. Raquel “Rocky” Bono, USN (Ret.) to the position on March 22. Bono is advising the governor and state officials on a variety of health care challenges to include hospital capacity and medical staff needs.
The state of Washington, specifically the greater Seattle area, presented as our nation’s first identified hotspot of COVID-19 cases, and the population has been hit hard there with the disease.
“Vice Admiral Bono will help bolster our existing coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic across our state’s health care system," Inslee said in a statement. "She brings an impressive medical background, a long and distinguished military career and a deep understanding of complex medical delivery systems. Her expertise will help us ensure that we can meet the needs of Washingtonians who are sick, or will become ill from COVID-19."
Bono is no stranger to MOAA, as she worked closely with the headquarters team in as DHA’s executive director. The veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm retired in September 2019.
MOAA caught up with Bono, just five days into her new role in Washington. She spoke from the Governor’s office in Seattle and described her mission, initial impressions, and outlined the heavy lift the whole community is engaged in.
What stood out to her when she landed in Washington state, was the level of total commitment from the Governor’s level on down and throughout the diverse localities within the state. She noted there is a strong existing medical infrastructure in place, so they are not having to “start from scratch” to develop capabilities. One of her initial efforts will be to lead a strongly supportive and engaged community to a higher level of coordination, getting everyone to “pull in the same direction.”
Serving as the top leader of the DHA prepared her for this new and challenging job.
“At the DHA, you had to bring all the parts together to get the job done,” she said. “That is a lot of what this mission requires. Working with different agencies within the various municipalities and integrating existing medical resources with incoming Army field hospital capabilities, will require a collective effort. We will need the entire community to pitch in.”
The admiral, who lives in the D.C. area, was both gratified and uplifted upon her arrival to the state, as she was welcomed by many former shipmates and MOAA members who reached out and volunteered to help her in the effort to slow the spread of disease and to eradicate this virus.
Right now, her message for all of us as we confront COVID-19 is to “stay safe; stay home; and stay well.”
Beasley is a former director of health affairs for MOAA Government Relations.