By Rachael Tolliver-IRAHC PAOJune 19, 2017
When Col. Bob Cornes leaves Fort Knox and the Ireland Army Health Clinic for the last time later this month, he will depart having overseen one of the biggest changes in Ireland's history. And, if he has his way, will leave a legacy of health and community service in his wake.
"This assignment has had several complex challenges," he explained. "The closure of our Warrior Transition Battalion--the Army's best WTB two years running; downsizing of our hospital's inpatient services, labor and delivery, operating rooms, and Emergency Room services coupled with a new facility project have provided plenty of opportunities for professional development and growth."
When the WTB closed it was important to the command to find employment for as many people who wanted to stay in government service as possible. For some that meant other jobs in IRAHC and for some that meant jobs elsewhere on post.
And, when the hospital transitioned to a clinic Cornes worked with his deputy commanders to schedule job fairs for employees who would be most negatively affected. He added that keeping the employees as well as the general community up to date on all the changes was a top priority. So the command scheduled numerous town halls both on and off post with which he could engage communities.
"It has been a transparent communication strategy and working well with our Fort Knox and community partners that have made this transition successful," he explained.
While it wasn't without expected bumps along the way Cornes said there were a couple of things he tried to keep in the front of his mind and for which he hopes to be remembered.
"I cared about each and every one of (the people here) no matter the circumstances, and I truly believe what I said about everyone deserving to be treated with dignity and respect," he said.
He added that one of the most important lessons he learned in his career came early on at an Airborne infantry battalion. It's one that he said has served him well for his 26 year career; you must build strong teams in order to be successful. Those are principles of leadership that are still with him today, and are a part of who he is.
"There is no one person that our team is about - everything that we do is a team effort and building strong teams is the bedrock to our success," he explained. "I don't take the mantle of leadership lightly - it is an honor and a privilege. I find great reward in …the success of others. I love to foster teamwork and see the individual and team accomplishments!"
But beyond work, Cornes is a family man with an interest in health and his community. He said he and his wife and children participated in as many community events as possible and enjoyed the activities that the area has to offer--which includes nurturing his hobby as an avid bicyclist.
He said he's been cycling seriously for about 16 years and enjoys it because it's a competitive outlet with which to challenge himself, it gives him a way to "blow off steam," improve his resiliency and gives him time to clear his head and "do some thinking."
"I've made many friends this way and raced (with them) as a part of different competitive teams over the years," he said. "I often find that community leaders in an area are also cycling enthusiasts. And I am able to form social contacts and less formal relationships through my love of the sport."
And through those clubs and contacts he found out about several competitions. He leaves here with a few cycling accomplishments from those: Kentucky State Time Trial Champion - CAT 3 in 2015, and the Fort Knox Reverse Triathlon Overall Winner in 2016.
"I hope that through my example I have inspired someone to ride a bike or pursue cycling as a lifetime activity they can enjoy whether for leisure activities or competitively. Besides, cycling fits in well with the Army's Performance Triad which includes sleep, activity and nutrition."
But Cornes has another interest--coaching young people.
The proud father of two--Andrew, who just completed his freshman year at Baylor University and Kaitlyn, who is a sophomore at Fort Knox High School--said he enjoys seeing improvement and successes in the youth he coaches and mentors. This year he volunteered as a track coach for the Fort Knox track teams.
He grew up as a competitor in track and field from the 4th grade through college, where he attended Western Oregon University.
"Because I was a decathlete in college I have a wide range of knowledge of track events (so) I volunteered for the Fort Knox High School track team to support it with my knowledge," he explained. "I hope that my love of the sport has somehow influenced or inspired someone to participate.
"Track and Field achievements at this level are really fun to watch as the kids can achieve vast improvements through a little bit of good coaching."
In fact, this year the high school boys track team won the Class A Kentucky State Champion Meet and the girls achieved 4th place at State overall. And his daughter, who he coached in hurdles and the high jump, placed 4th at State.
Cornes said that Fort Knox and the surrounding communities are a great "small-town" part of America to be a part of and they have made many friends here they will be sad to leave. But he added that it's important to leave each place you visit a little better than when you got there--your job, and your community.
"I always attempt to make improvements for the better no matter where I am--never ever be satisfied with the success that you have--always strive to get better each and every day," he explained. "This is how we become a high reliability and learning organization and it's how we continue to provide the absolute best possible health care to our most-deserving beneficiaries."