By Elaine WilsonJuly 15, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- A ceremonial groundbreaking for the Medical Education and Training Campus July 10 marked another step toward what leaders are calling the largest consolidation of training in the history of the Department of Defense.
Upon completion in 2011, the joint campus, led by tri-service leadership, will centralize all Army, Navy and Air Force basic and specialty enlisted medical training at Fort Sam Houston.
"With this institution becoming the largest in the world solely dedicated to medical training and education, San Antonio will be transformed into a national center for education and training," said keynote speaker Air Force Maj. Gen. Melissa Rank, chair, METC Flag Officer Steering Committee. "Once complete, San Antonio will be the location where every enlisted military medic is trained."
A busy construction site provided a fitting backdrop for the ceremony with campus construction already under way. Fort Sam Houston is slated to gain five instructional facilities, six dormitories, an Air Force and Navy headquarters building, dining facility, gym and lighted troop walks. The six existing Army Medical Department Center and School buildings will become part of the training campus.
Several units will then join the AMEDDC&S here to include the 882nd Training Group, Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas; the Naval Schools of Health Sciences in San Diego and Portsmouth, Va.; the Naval Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Ill.; and the enlisted medical training mission at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
METC's average daily student load is projected to be more than 9,000 and the support staff nearly 4,000.
"Today we celebrate a significant milestone in a proud history of professional military medicine," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Manuel Sarmina, chairman, METC Tri-Service Senior Enlisted Advisory Committee. "In the coming years, America's best and brightest will begin arriving here to work and to train in an environment that will be known and recognized as a premier learning center for our joint enlisted medical force."
Sarmina said the vision is to create a "collaborative, non-competitive learning environment ... that reflects, respects and preserves our separate service cultures.
"Our different service missions, skills and capabilities combined are strengths as we strive to shape a better force for the future," the chief said.
The nearly $1 billion project, directed by Base Realignment and Closure 2005 legislation, is "by far the largest economic development project that has occurred in San Antonio to date," Rank said.
"The community will benefit from tremendous economic opportunities and the military will benefit from the heightened emphasis on quality medical care for the American warfighters and their Families," the general said.
Rank said military leaders from each service will continue striving for excellence as the consolidated center turns from vision to reality.
"In this project, we truly are beginning with the end in mind - achieving our vision of METC as the nation's leader in military medical education and training and the mission of graduating the world's best military health-care personnel to support the nation," she said.
"We are stepping out with each endeavor as if the future of the armed forces depends on our getting it right," Rank said.