07 August 2009

USA MEDDAC welcomes new commander

Via Fort Drum Mountaineer

Col. Bertram C. Providence accepts the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity guidon from Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, signifying his assumption of command Friday, as Col. Jerome Penner III, outgoing commander looks on at right. Photo by Glenn Wagner

The U.S. Army Medical Department Activity changed leaders Friday during a ceremony at Fort Drum’s Sexton Field. Military and civilian men and women of the Army Medical Department participated in a change of command farewell to Col. Jerome Penner III, outgoing commander, and an official welcome to Col. Bertram C. Providence, incoming commander.

Commander of troops for the ceremony was Lt. Col. Alejandro Lopez-Duke, MEDDAC chief of staff and deputy commander for administration. Reviewing officer was Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, commander, North Atlantic Regional Medical Command.
Following a sequence of events that included formation of troops, honors, colors advance, honors to the nation and the change of command itself, Hawley-Bowland and Penner and Providence made remarks.

Hawley-Bowland recognized MEDDAC Soldiers and civilians for the “quality, compassionate medical care they provide every day,” and highlighted the Army Medical Department challenges under which Penner served.

“Col. Jerry Penner has commanded the Army Medical Department Activity at Fort Drum for the past two years with great distinction,” she said. “This has been a very critical period in the history of the Army Medical Department. Besides taking care of Soldiers and their Families, we have been extremely visible to, and held accountable by, the American people, who demand the best in health care and support for wounded warriors.”

Hawley-Bowland outlined Penner’s accomplishments, which included expanded health care capacity through newly opened or improved facilities on and post off; enhanced partnerships with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and northern New York health care provider partners; establishing and operating “one of the Army’s most effective warrior transition units”; combining five behavioral health facilities into one convenient location; and spearheading ongoing construction efforts to better meet health care needs of 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers and Families.

The general then welcomed Providence.

“You bring with you an impressive resume of challenging and varied assignments as an AMEDD leader,” she said. “I know you’re up to the challenge of building upon the accomplishment of this great team. We all expect the current high tempo to continue, and we’re all committed to sustained excellence in warrior care here at Fort Drum. The North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and I pledge our full support.”

Penner spoke next. He thanked the NARMC, division, garrison and MEDDAC command for its support; Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and community medical partners for their vital role in making the unique Fort Drum medical model “work to benefit our military children, spouses and Soldiers,” and recognized MEDDAC Soldiers and civilian staff, as well as 3-85 Mountain Infantry warriors in transition.

“You (who) live and work in the North Country have made this the best assignment the Penners have experienced in 27 years,” he said in an emotional close. “Thank you for embracing us and allowing us to be part of your greater Fort Drum Family. Although we move on to a much bigger challenge, there is no way any place could be better.”

Following Penner’s remarks, Providence began his with a warm welcome to distinguished guests, visitors, members of MEDDAC, Family Members who traveled great distance to attend, and the Watertown and Fort Drum community.

“I am well aware that Col. Penner has left me with a very difficult act to follow,” he said. “I am very well aware of how highly he is regarded by you.
“I hope you will find me open to ideas and willing to learn. I, as the newcomer, must learn from you who know the area, its people and culture. Together, I hope we will achieve whatever is demanded of us. I hope that my experiences will enrich yours and that together we continue to make this the finest MEDDAC in the Army.

“To achieve our goal, we must always place the needs of the patients first,” he continued. “We are here to serve the Soldiers and their Family Members. … We must act as one team. … We must continue to strengthen our partnership with the local medical community to improve health care for all, and we must remember that quality is a race without a finish line. We must continue to improve.”

Providence received a bachelor of science in chemistry from St. John’s University, Queens; a doctor of medicine degree from the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Md.; a master’s degree in business administration - health care from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native entered the Army in 1987 as an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate from St. John’s University.

He is fellowship trained in total joint replacement surgery, board certified in Orthopedic surgery, and board eligible in orthopedic sports medicine. Providence is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He is a member of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons; Society of Military Orthopedic Surgeons; Association of Military Surgeons of the United States; Orthopedic Trauma Association; and the American College of Physician Executives. He is an assistant professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University.

His past assignments include flight surgeon, Multinational Force and Observers, Sinai, Egypt; chief, Orthopedic Surgery Service, Fort Bragg, N.C.; staff orthopedic surgeon, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii; 2nd Infantry Division Surgeon, South Korea; and chief, Orthopedic Surgery Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C. Providence most recently served as staff orthopedic surgeon and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command orthopedic consultant at the newly created Walter Reed National Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

He deployed to Mindinow, Philippines, with the Joint Special Forces Task Force and to Bagram, Afghanistan, with Medical Task Force-44, both in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Providence’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Services Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Flight Surgeon Badge, Expert Field Medical Badge, Parachutist Badge, Order of Military Medical Merit and various service and campaign awards.

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