- Desert Storm
Colonel Connell was born in 1961 in Middletown, RI. He graduated from Middletown High School in 1979 where he played hockey. He graduated from URI in 1986 as a Distinguished Military Graduate. He was awarded the coveted URI Cramer’s Saber Award and a Regular Army commission. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
Col Connell distinguished himself as an Army Aviator, Commander, and in numerous Staff Officer assignments. Colonel Connell’s career began with the US Army Aviation Center Air Ambulance Detachment as a Platoon Leader, Assistant S-3, and Pilot in Command. During his tenure as a Pilot in Command, he was responsible for numerous life-saving missions throughout the Southeastern United States. Colonel Connell’s next assignment was to the 421st Medical Battalion in Europe where he performed numerous duties to include Operations Officer, Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Pilot in Command. Again, Colonel Connell was responsible for numerous life-saving missions throughout Germany and across Europe. At the onset of Operation DESERT STORM, Colonel Connell deployed to the Saudi Arabian-Iraq border to recon a suitable staging site for his MEDEVAC unit. He and his crews provided life-saving medical care to countless soldiers.
He then commanded the Headquarters Company, US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory. Colonel Connell was personally involved in the research and testing of equipment. Upon graduation from the Command and General Staff College, he was selected to command the 54th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Colonel Connell deployed his unit to South West Asia in support of Operation Desert Fox, to support operations in Kuwait. Colonel Connell’s unit continued to provide support to Kuwait for the two years he was in command. Colonel Connell’s unit won the “DUSTOFF” unit of the year award in 1998. He was then selected as the S-3 (Operations) for the 62nd Medical Brigade.
Colonel Connell assumed duties as Chief of Plans and Operations on the I Corps surgeon’s staff. During his tenure, Colonel Connell wrote the I Corps Medical Annex to the 5027 Korean War plan. Upon his departure from I Corps, Colonel Connell was assigned as Chief, Operations Division, Pacific Regional Medical Command, and then he was selected as the U.S. Army Pacific Command Deputy Surgeon where he was responsible for medical relief efforts during the Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Colonel Connell was then selected to command the 43rd Area Support Medical Battalion, where he was responsible for the operational readiness of over 1,000 personnel. Later as the Executive Officer, 62nd Medical Brigade, he was responsible for the deployment of the Brigade to support combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom where the soldiers of the Brigade were responsible for over a 90% survival rate of wounded soldiers in combat. Colonel Connell was then assigned to Fort Sam Houston as the Command Inspector General. Colonel Connell was selected to command the Army Health Clinic, Stuttgart, the largest health clinic in Europe. Next, he was Chief of Staff, Pacific Regional Medical Command. Colonel Connell’s last assignment was Deputy Chief of Operations, US Pacific Command Joint Cyber Center.
Colonel Connell has been awarded the Senior Aviator Badge; Airborne, Air Assault, and the Expert Field Medical Badges. He is the recipient of two Legions of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, two Air Medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, among other awards and decorations. Colonel Connell earned his Master of Science in International Relations from Troy State University, in Alabama.
Upon retirement Colonel Connell, entered civil service achieving Senior Executive Service rank. He developed a strategic roadmap for the President and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that laid out the necessary changes for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to better serve Veterans. He was asked to be Director of the then troubled Washington. D.C. VA Hospital. He was then selected to be Chief of Staff, Veterans Health Administration, during the COVID era, supervising 172 hospitals. Colonel Connell assumed his current position as the Director, VA Providence Health Care System.
Colonel Connell is married to the former Joy Holombo. They have a son Maximillian and a daughter Alayna. He volunteers for numerous Wounded Warrior events and he is a volunteer for AARP. He has been a long-standing member of the URI ROTC Alumni Chapter and has made contributions to the University.