Ireland Army Health Clinic will host a groundbreaking at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 for its new facility at the corner of Wilson Road and Spearhead Division Avenue on Fort Knox.

The event marks the start of construction for the new 101,373-square-foot state-of-the-art medical facility that will replace the existing building, which was built in 1957 and is the Army's oldest such facility. The new clinic is expected to be open by winter 2020.

"We are very excited for this new, modern facility because it will offer increased patient flow and modern equipment," explained Col. Kevin Bass, Medical Department Activity and IRAHC commander.

But as construction on the new facility begins Bass said it's important to know where the Fort Knox MEDDAC came from so people can understand where it's going and why.

"When this building we are in now was dedicated, the Army was a different place, and the area around Fort Knox was a different composition," said Bass. "Today, the Army is a more efficient organization that can transport troops from point A to point B in hours, not weeks. And modern technology has helped us save Soldiers who may have died from combat wounds in that era."

In 1957 Fort Knox was surrounded by farm land and rural areas--Elizabethtown didn't look like it does today and the Hardin Memorial Hospital we know now isn't the same small organization from 1957, he added. In fact, medical facilities in this area were scarce and Ireland helped out as a community hospital if there was a traffic accident on 31W or something.

"IRACH's reputation for quality medical care that started back in 1957, transcends time and continues now," Bass noted. "Our patients today receive the same quality care from an exceptional, professional staff just like they did 50 years ago and that is something that has remained consistent."

Bass said that as this area became more developed and added more medical facilities to the landscape, the result is an increased opportunity for quality care to military members.

"Since our main mission is Soldier readiness, and a Soldier can't be ready if he or she isn't healthy and medically ready, having these assets so close to us is a windfall for the Army," he explained. "And it is a blessing for our beneficiary population because it allows us to maintain quality, safe, timely care for our entire population--no matter the illness."

Emmet Holley, the Fort Knox deputy garrison commander, first came to Fort Knox the summer of 1974 to attend ROTC Basic Camp, and returned in October 1976 to attend Armor Officer Basic course. He said he didn't have a reason to visit Ireland Army Community Hospital at that time, but remembers being impressed with "the sheer size of the hospital and how well the grounds around the hospital were maintained."

Later, when he retired, he became the deputy garrison commander. He said IRAHC has always had quality personnel and he experienced it first hand when he had a stress related attack in 2007.

"I went to emergency room and was very quickly diagnosed with heart palpitations," he explained. "The doctors here immediately had me transported to U of L Medical Center where they quickly determined it was a stress related issue. The result of that visit allowed me to drop about 40 pounds and adopt a healthy lifestyle."

He added that having a healthcare facility on post is a security and readiness multiplier.

"Having a staff that takes care of Soldiers, retirees and family members like the hospital staff did for the last 70 or so years is a huge security factor for the future of all people who either work here as retirees or as a future beneficiaries of the Army Health care system," he explained.

Even though the future clinic is smaller than the current facility, Holley noted it's still important to the Fort Knox community to have a health care facility that is staffed with professionals that understand the warrior ethos and treats that clientele with the respect those warriors deserve.

"But I think we are fortune as a community to be so close to outstanding medical communities like those at HMH and in Louisville," he added. "The new clinic will continue to offer first class, primary care and our partners will continue to offer outstanding support."

Col. Patrick Kaune, the Fort Knox garrison commander, said the construction of the new clinic will fit in well to the Fort Knox landscape as the installation updates and modernizes itself for better Soldier readiness.

"The Fort Knox MEDDAC team has been committed to providing quality care to its beneficiaries through the years," Kaune said. "With the construction of this new facility, they'll in due time have a place that matches that commitment and facilitates the very best that can be offered in 21st century medicine."