By Kirstin Grace-Simons (Madigan Army Medical Center)June 25, 2019
CALIFORNIA MEDICAL DETACHMENT, Presidio of Monterey, Calif. -- Change of command ceremonies are extremely well-practiced events in the Army; most commands do one every two years. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the California Medical Detachment recently welcomed a new commander on June 20 at Soldier Field at Presidio of Monterey.
While even the smallest units will hit all the traditional notes in their ceremonies, not all are filled with tears, hugs and family like this one.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Brian Lanier spoke words of thanks and farewell, sometimes shaky with emotion, after handing the reins of his unit over to Lt. Col. (Dr.) Zack Solomon.
"I have poured my all into this mission. I love this team. They became part of the family; and our family grew by 130 people," said Lanier.
Pfc. Jeremy Petrain, who works in CAL MED's preventive medicine section, offered some insight into the emotion of the day.
"He likes to get to know the Soldiers. When I first came here, he asked if I would want to sit down with him and talk. We scheduled it, and I got to talk with him," said Petrain, acknowledging that is something a junior enlisted Soldier does not expect from a commander.
Maj. Hanumanth Ravindranath, the chief of ancillary services, further explained the appreciation displayed for Lanier.
"He's the only leader (I've had) who leads with his brain and his heart at equal capacity, and at such a great capacity," remarked Ravindranath. "I think for Soldiers and myself, being caring, intelligent and available, that combination is beyond reproach."
While the CAL MED team praised him, Lanier sang their praises. He gave pointed advice to his successor, saying, "Set the conditions for their success, and they will move mountains for you."
During his time as commander, Lanier oversaw the opening of the Major General William H. Gourley VA-DoD Outpatient Clinic in Marina, Calif., which is the second joint Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs facility. The first, being the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in the Chicago area, which opened in 2010. Gourley houses a family medicine practice and a robust pediatrics clinic.
CAL MED will again find itself at the forefront of military medicine as it is part of the first wave of medical treatment facilities to make the switch to the new MHS GENESIS electronic healthcare record system this fall. As it will also be used by the VA in the coming years, Gourley will provide a proving ground for the system.
"The future of federal healthcare with enhanced partnership between the VA and DoD is right here in the Monterey Peninsula," said Lanier.
As Lanier moves to his next assignment at Fort Hood, Texas, Solomon comes in ready for additional challenges and changes ahead.
"He's got a long history of serving with FORSCOM (U.S. Army Forces Command) related units, he's a clinician as well as an administrator and a proven leader. He is an awesome addition to this family, and we're really honored to have him," said Col. Thomas Bundt, the commander of Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., under whose command CAL MED falls.
Solomon has significant clinical and administrative experience behind him. He comes to Monterey from a year of serving as the chief of physical therapy at Dunham Army Health Clinic at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
He earned his doctorate in physical therapy from Baylor University and a master's degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. He's served as a physical therapist, or PT chief, in numerous clinics including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as an assistant program manager with the Army Institute of Public Health with Army Public Health Command, and deployed to Iraq. He's also earned the Expert Field Medical Badge.
Solomon addressed the unit and ceremony guests, offering a nod to the environment of change Army Medicine finds itself in.
"We approach the dawn of unprecedented change across Army Medicine, although challenging, these changes will greatly improve how we conduct business and provide care for our patients," said Solomon.
Solomon grew up in the North Bay town of Novato, Calif., and had many family members, to include his parents and sisters, in attendance at the ceremony to watch him take the unit's flag from Bundt.
"Soldiers and civilians of CAL MED, you look great. I look forward to serving with you and for you," said Solomon. "I pledge my full commitment to you, your families and our customers."