Medical Brigade changes leadership

Medical Brigade changes leadership

by William Wight
Regional Health Command - Pacific

A change of command is a time-honored military tradition that represents a formal transfer of authority and responsibility for a unit from one commanding officer to another. The 65th Medical Brigade and Medical Department Activity Command Korea conducted a change of command ceremony at the Humphreys Morning Calm Conference Center, June 26, 2020, to bid farewell to Col. Derek Cooper, outgoing commander, and to welcome incoming commander, Col. Dave Zimmerman.

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Bills, Commanding General, Eighth United States Army and presiding officer, hosted a limited number of Soldiers, invited staff and distinguished guests who gathered to honor and recognize the colonels as they take on their new military career roles.

Held within the Morning Calm Conference Center under strict COVID-19 guidelines and social distancing, the ceremony was simultaneously broadcasted via Facebook Live.

“The 65th has had a phenomenal year amidst one of the most trying times dealing with a critical issue in the Pacific, that of the coronavirus,” said Lt. Gen. Bills. The general went on to emphasize that with a best practices approach, Col. Cooper and his team developed and instituted plans for tackling the pandemic while continuing to protect the force and thus provided a new way of doing business that has become the model blue print for the entire Army and the Department of Defense when it comes to COVID-19.

With a clear vision and path forward, Bills highlighted Coopers accomplishments during his command tenure one of which was a successful transition and relocation of the Brigade and medical assets from Yongsan to Humphreys with the movement of the Brigade Headquarters culminating with the grand opening of the new state of the art Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital all while guaranteeing no lapse in medical care coverage to beneficiaries.

This past year, Cooper saw the transition of the combat support hospital (121st Combat Support Hospital) to the Army’s only fully enabled and modernized hospital center, the 549th Hospital Center.

“As the Commander of MEDDAC-Korea, a command in one of the most strategically important regions in the world, Col. Cooper provided mission-focused and team-oriented leadership to Army medical equities across the entire peninsula. His tirelessly devotion to patient care, ensuring over 60,000 beneficiaries of combined joint warfighters from across United States Forces Korea, Eighth United States Army, family members and retirees were well cared for with quality health service support and force health protection,” said Bills, who awarded Cooper with the Legion of Merit prior to the change of command ceremony.

Since assuming command in June 2018, Cooper has worked closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) partners and alongside over 2,900 assigned Soldiers, KATUSAs, U.S. and Korean Civilian employees dispersed across the peninsula.

“We began a journey that has been fast paced under the most dynamic of circumstances in one of the most complex operating environments in the world,” said Cooper as he addressed the audience in attendance. “We executed mission during a period of strategic provocation, transformation, a global pandemic and the (Brigade and MEDDAC-K) have continued armistice health service support and force health protection missions and significantly increased our readiness posture and expeditionary capabilities at multiple.”

In thanking the countless individuals that have made his command a success, Cooper paused to punctuate a special thanks to the partnership and alliance with the host nation. “I cannot over emphasize just how extraordinary this alliance is, and how much it means to everyone, although most will never really know or appreciate the full extent of just how much our ROK partners mean to our readiness, and the health and welfare of us all,” said Cooper. “Our ROK civilian and medical counterparts provide world class healthcare, but also training and friendship opportunities that are not matched anywhere else in our Army.”

In closing, Cooper thanked the Pacific Medic team for their dedication and perseverance in these uncertain times and for all the incredible challenged and hardships the unit has overcome along the way for the past two years.

Cooper will be moving onward to serve within the Office of the Surgeon General in Falls Church Virginia.

Col. Dave Zimmerman comes to the unit after serving as the Commander of the Desmond Doss Health Clinic, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Gen. Bills praised his background and experiences as not only impressive but exactly what the unit needs to lead it forward. “Your (Col. Zimmerman) background and knowledge of Korea will no doubt guide you as you continue to maintain the readiness of this brigade and its role within the Eighth United States Army continuing to make Korea the assignment of choice,” said Bills. “Col. Zimmerman you must never forget that the command of Soldiers is the highest privilege the Army can bestow on a commissioned officer. We look forward to your leadership and welcome you, your wife Michelle, along with your two daughters, Katy and Emily (viewing on webcast) to Korea and the Eighth Army family.”

In his welcoming remarks, Zimmerman said he looked forward to sharing ideas, building relationships, and forging a path in support of the military health system transformation.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve the extraordinarily talented men and women of the Brigade and MEDDAC-K as we continue to provide full spectrum theater level medical support and force health protection in support of 8th Army and our Korean allies,” said Zimmerman.

“To the Pacific Medic family, we are challenged with the duality of our mission...to be ready to fight tonight and simultaneously provide world class medical, dental, and veterinary care to our servicemen and women, their families and retirees here on the peninsula,” said Zimmerman.

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