By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 20, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 20, 2013) -- The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory welcomed a new commander and bid farewell to a familiar face during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation museum June 14.
Col. John A. Smyrski III, incoming commander, assumed command of USAARL from Col. Dana K Renta, outgoing commander, as the unit colors passed from Renta to Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, to Smyrski.
"We are delighted to welcome (Smyrski) to the RMC team," said Caravalho during the ceremony. "With a variety of combat Aviation and medical corps assignments under your belt, as well as deployments to Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq, I know you come fully prepared for the mission at hand."
Smyrski began his military career as a distinguished military graduate from Saint John's University in 1985 when he received an Army commission as a second lieutenant in the Aviation Branch at Fort Rucker.
Following his initial entry rotary wing flight training on the installation, the incoming commander's military career spans multiple continents ranging from company executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade in Fort Bragg, N.C., force modernization officer for 224th Military Intelligence Battalion, to his most recent assignment as the chief of clinical operations, Pacific RMC, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
"I was humbled and grateful when I first heard that I was going to have the opportunity to serve here at the aeromedical research lab," said Smyrski. "This segment has only grown over time and I've come to know, firsthand, what a great organization this is.
"My Army career began here at Fort Rucker more than 20 years ago," he continued, "and I never imagined that I would return to lower Alabama."
Smyrski spent three years on Fort Rucker as an instructor pilot at Shell Field in the early 90s.
"Returning now, 21 years later, it's more special to be back home amongst so many friends and Family, and support the best Soldiers in our Army," he said.
Caravalho said that a ceremony, such as the change of command, is a time to honor Soldiers, as well as the achievements of the organization.
"USAARL has a proud, 50-year history of supporting the ground and Aviation communities," he said. "The work being done at (the organization) is improving Army systems and, most importantly, saving the lives of our warfighters."
USAARL is a team of physicians, engineers, scientists, pilots and administrators who work together to research environmental issues such as jetlag and fatigue, as well as test equipment, such as helmets, visors, night vision goggles, seats and restraints, said Caravalho, adding that the organization achieved much under Renta's leadership.
Some of the developments that USAARL made with Renta at the helm include binocular vision testers, which detects subtle impairments of visual performance and physiology in mild traumatic brain injuries; the Aviation common helmet display, a new design standard for helmet-mounted displays; and the noise-immune stethoscope, which enables health care providers the ability to hear heart sounds in the noisy compartments of rotary-wing aircraft during high-speed flight.
"Colonel Renta, you have done an amazing job honoring the call of duty, both day and night," he said. "I know I speak for many when I say that you will be missed as you move on to your new position."
"It's been an incredible privilege and honor to serve as the commander of this great unit," said Renta. "This is not an easy mission, yet (those involved) do it so well and make it look so easy, and I'm extremely confident that John will take the unit from a great level to an even higher level."
Renta will go on to serve as an Installation Management Command surgeon at Fort Sam-Houston, Texas.