NATICK, Mass. (July 11, 2018) -- Col. Sean S. O'Neil became the 22nd commander of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, in a June 10 change of command ceremony.
O'Neil took over from Col. Raymond L. Phua as Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb, commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, or USAMRMC, presided. O'Neil previously served as the deputy medical acquisition consultant to the Army Surgeon General, and he recently graduated from the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. Phua retired from the Army after 32 years of service.
At the beginning of O'Neil's military career, he once served as USARIEM's chief of logistics. Holcomb pointed out that in O'Neil, USARIEM was getting a commander who has a "genuine passion for Army medicine."
"Unlike other processes in life, we cannot interrupt the delivery of medicine to our warfighters," Holcomb said. "As a medical logistician, Sean lives in the real world of delivering reliable solutions to the Soldier and the clinician."
As he addressed his Soldiers and workforce for the first time as the USARIEM Commander, O'Neil said he was thrilled to return to Natick and the USARIEM team.
"As our Soldiers were prosecuting those wars, you all, the men and women of USARIEM, have dedicated your passions, talents, incredible expertise and special skills in order to improve warfighter health and performance," O'Neil said. "I've seen firsthand, everywhere I've been--at home station, at training events and while deployed--USARIEM's fingerprints are everywhere.
"I'm incredibly thrilled to have this opportunity to return as your commander. I pledge my complete commitment to you and our mission."
Holcomb recognized Phua's "diligent and unwavering leadership" of USARIEM during a busy two years in its history. In particular, Holcomb focused on Phua's support behind validating the effectiveness of the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT.
"When Col. Phua became the commander here at USARIEM, he put his support behind another highly successful performance initiative: The OPAT test validation," Holcomb said. "This battery of four physical performance tests is what is now administered to all Army recruits to assess their physical performance capabilities to determine if they are fit to serve. The Training and Doctrine Command validated the OPAT this past year.
"In addition to a 50 million dollar cost savings in the first nine months, the data generated by this validation contributed to Army and Department of Defense policy changes that led to opening combat military occupational specialties to female warfighters."
O'Neil also saluted Phua's two years of service at USARIEM and his 32 years of service to the nation.
Phua said that he "was deeply honored to have served our country, the U.S. Army and USAMRMC as USARIEM's 21st commander." He noted that USARIEM has crossed many milestones over the past two years, including implementing new products such as the Performance Readiness Bar and wearable physiological status monitors, as well as beginning the groundbreaking for two new facilities that will enable USARIEM's mission to optimize warfighter health and performance: The Soldier Squad Performance Research Institute, or S2PRINT, in Natick and the new High Altitude Research Laboratory on top of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.
In particular he mentioned the impact that the OPAT and the ARIEM Reduction in Musculoskeletal Injury, or ARMI, study, two of the largest data collections in USARIEM's history, will have on optimizing Army readiness.
"The OPAT is one of USARIEM's greatest accomplishments, as it affects every Soldier assessed in the U.S. Army," Phua said. "While the OPAT was wrapping up, USARIEM researchers were already leaning forward in the saddle, receiving institutional review board approval for the ARMI study, an effort to better understand who is more likely to get injured and what can affect injury risk. This multidisciplinary team of researchers is currently collecting bone and muscle data from four thousand recruits as they go through basic combat training. They are following the recruits during the first few years of their military careers. This data collection is part of a four-year longitudinal study. I predict it, too, will someday be as influential in shaping how a Soldier physically trains.
"Col. O'Neil, your biography speaks for itself. You are no stranger to the USAMRMC family or to USARIEM, having previously served as deputy commanding officer at the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity, as well as chief of logistics at USARIEM. Your previous leadership experience will serve you well. It will be called upon as you guide this great organization to achieve new milestones."
In her closing remarks, Holcomb praised the people who work in USARIEM.
"Environmental medicine is an essential precursor to readiness," Holcomb said. "The team at USARIEM is phenomenal, and I want to take a moment to honor all service members, civilians and contractors who come together to support this important mission. Thank you for the work you do, which makes a profound difference for service members and for the success of military medicine."