Topping off ceremony
By Rachael Tolliver-IRAHC PAO

Ireland Army Health Clinic officials hosted a topping off ceremony June 14 at the future facility's construction site, recognizing the emplacement of the last beam in the new 101,373-square-foot, two-story, state-of-the-art facility.

The new facility is expected to be open by winter 2020, parking will be available all around the building with overflow parking across Brule Street, and patients will enter at the main entrance facing Wilson Road.

The building--which was topped off on the Army's birthday--will be out-fitted with new and modern medical equipment, will allow for improved access and quality of care and, ultimately, increase Soldier readiness, according to Col. Kevin Bass, the IRAHC and Fort Knox MEDDAC commander.

"This project represents our continued, steadfast commitment to caring for our nation's heroes and their families, and is also about the dedicated medical staff that delivers that care," he added. "In that vein I can't think of a better day, with this beautiful weather, to have this ceremony than on the Army's 243rd birthday."

A topping off, or sometimes called a topping out, has European origins but is also part of American construction and building culture. Originally structures were created out of timber and the last beam added was decorated in flags and adorned with a small tree. The tree symbolized the structure going up without a loss of life and was also a symbol of good luck for future occupants.

A modern topping off also includes an American flag--a tradition that goes back dates back to 1919 and started by U.S. steel ironworkers during the "American Plan Period," showing loyalty to flag and country. And the steel beam is usually painted white--one of the only beams--with the signatures of everyone in attendance added. The white beam symbolizes the skilled craftsmanship and labor to create the beam and construct a building.

The IRAHC final beam also included a coin from all the major commands on Fort Knox and those commanders' signatures; a Fort Knox centennial stencil--in in honor of the Army post's 100-year history and contributions to the United States, and a Medical Department Activity Centennial tile in recognition of Fort Knox MEDDAC's centennial.

"There is a quote that says, 'someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago," Bass said. "This new facility has been several years in the making and would not have been possible without the outstanding support from our Fort Knox senior leaders and mission partners, Col. Gant and her Louisville Corps of Engineer Team, Col. Brennan and his health facility planners, and Jim Mills and the Mortenson construction team. It is truly a team effort."