JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The scene at Watkins Field on Joint Base Lewis-McChord July 13 proved the early 20th century designers of then-Camp Lewis had a keen sense of military tradition and an appreciation of the grandeur of the base's natural setting. With Mount Rainier in the distance, Brig. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, commanding general, Regional Health Command-Pacific, presided over the change of command ceremony where newly promoted Brig. Gen. Michael Place relinquished command of Madigan Army Medical Center to Col. Thomas Bundt.

LeMaster, noting that the strategic criticality of Madigan cannot be overstated, recognized an aspect of Madigan's presence that is beyond what data collection on patient care capture easily.

"I was a patient there a couple weeks ago," he said. "I was just so impressed when I walked in there, my wife and I walked in there -- the energy, the vibe -- people are glad to be there, and they love the institution. The base loves the institution. It is one of Army Medicine's flagship institutions."

Place saw his stay as Madigan's commander extended by a year as he led the largest Army medical military treatment facility on the West Coast through a number of significant changes.

Joking that, "The third year usually means you're going to get relieved for something," Place took the opportunity to praise Madigan's staff for its "hard work and dedication to our mission, which is unique and important."

Most notably, Madigan became the last and largest MTF of the four initial operating capability sites to roll out the Department of Defense's new $4.3 billion electronic health record system, MHS GENESIS, in October 2017.

During his remarks, the list of firsts and accomplishments rivaled the extensive list of thank yous, highlighting the size and scope of Madigan and its mission.

Acknowledging Madigan's staff, Place said, "You exemplify all that is good about our Army and our Army Medical Department. So, thank you very much for all you do."

Place, having just been promoted to a one-star general during a July 12 at a ceremony in Madigan's Medical Mall, takes on the role of RHC-P deputy commanding general as that position moves to Hawaii. Place has been stationed and deployed around the globe with duty in Colorado, Kentucky, Texas, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Pentagon.

Immediately preceding the change of command ceremony, LeMaster presented Place with the Legion of Merit award for his service at Madigan and his wife, Jackie, with the Commander's Award for Public Service for her dedication and involvement with the Madigan and JBLM community.

Stepping into the command suite at Madigan, Bundt finds the surroundings familiar. He served as its chief of staff from April 2012 to January 2013. He returns to Madigan from the chief of staff position at the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

With this change of command, Bundt is also returning home. He is a Puget Sound native who earned his bachelor's of science degree in psychology from the University of Washington before commissioning in the Army. Bundt also holds three master's degrees and a doctoral degree in health service research. Among his assignments is a command of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He has been stationed and deployed from Missouri to Maryland and Germany to Iraq.

As a member of the Medical Service Corps, Bundt brings to Madigan a knowledge of the behind-the-scenes engines that make military medicine work. He is also well positioned to continue the MTF's strong research posture, or as LeMaster referred to Madigan, "vanguard of the future."

Bundt's appreciation of not only Army Medicine but Madigan, in particular, stems from his first introduction to it -- as a patient, he said.

As the son of a former command sergeant major here at then-Fort Lewis, Madigan was the hospital that cared for him when he was in a serious motorcycle accident in his youth.

"I did not realize it at the time, but this ability to heal with care and compassion allowed me to serve my country for nearly 30 years. I was made 'medically ready,' before I knew what that meant and have maintained that ever since as my way of thanking them," Bundt said.

Bundt shared a thought from his grandfather that has offered a lasting impact on him. Showing an "affable attitude," he would say, "immer weiter, immer weider." Meaning "again and again," the senior Bundt said that attitude is everything.

"Life is a journey and how you choose to approach it is what colors everything else you do and those you do it with," said the incoming commander.