By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneAugust 8, 2019
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Aug. 8, 2019) -- Command of Fort Sill Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC) and Reynolds Army Health Clinic passed from Col. Enrique Ortiz Jr. to Col. David Zinnante in a ceremony on the Old Post Quadrangle Aug. 1.
As officiating officer for the command change, Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter, deputy commanding general of Regional Health Command - Central, welcomed their families. She noted that retired Staff Sgt. Enrique Ortiz Sr., who will soon be 93 years old, was unable to attend. As an infantryman he served through World War II, Korea, and Vietnam and was a recipient of three Purple Hearts.
"We wish him the best and thank him for the sacrifices he made for this great nation," she said.
"One thing that is truly remarkable at Reynolds is how seamlessly the leadership and staff here integrate the Reynolds mission with the Fires Center of Excellence and other units post," Harter said, praising Ortiz Jr. for fostering medical readiness of both deploying Soldiers and Reynolds' medical force. As a result, the overall deployability of Fort Sill is now at 95 percent.
To achieve that, Ortiz dedicated a health care provider to each training brigade along with case managers and embedded behavioral health providers to serve as brigade command team advisers during monthly Soldier readiness forums.
Ortiz also spearheaded a seven-month critical assessment of medical services support that directly impacted the readiness of the Fires Center of Excellence (FCoE). The results of that assessment led to the establishment of an urgent care clinic, orthopedic evaluations, early triage and more.
Ortiz now goes to Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas, where he will serve as chief of medical integrations.
"I can think of no better assignment where you can continue your commitment to innovation and excellence," Harter said.
In his remarks to the troops in formation, Ortiz said that two years ago Reynolds Army Health Clinic was discussing the possible loss of over 200 jobs "and the future at Reynolds was not that bright. Today we're having conversations about restoring services and leading small markets. You did that. I am so proud of you."
In an awards ceremony preceding the change of command, Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, commended Ortiz and his wife, Diana, for their contributions to the Lawton-Fort Sill community.
"The thing that impressed me most about Diana was the example she set for others, and the spirit of wanting to be something that's bigger than just yourself, or your own family," Shoffner said.
Diana Ortiz was presented the Meritorious Public Service Medal for, among other things, serving as president of the Patriot Spouses Club, Fort Sill Thrift Shop board member, Fort Sill Post Trading Store adviser, and a Family Readiness Group adviser. She totaled more than 3,400 hours of volunteer service between Aug. 4, 2017, and July 31, 2019.
Ortiz received the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service over the same period.
"This has been a tough time for the U.S. Army Medical Command. It's been a tough time for the Army as we go through some significant changes, with the transition to DHA (Defense Health Agency) on top of the reduction of both military and civilian workforce," Shoffner said.
The civilian workforce at Reynolds hasn't been reduced yet, except for some small changes, but over the course of time Reynolds went from being a hospital to a clinic, and then services were reduced even more, the general noted.
"So that's the environment that Col. Ortiz had when he took command. What he was able to do over the course of those two years is actually increase the services for our Soldiers despite his resources being cut. And he did that in some very creative ways," Shoffner said.
One was by establishing an urgent care clinic that is almost fully staffed, thanks to specialty care providers from the civilian community, and it directly affects readiness of Fort Sill Soldiers, he pointed out.
Ortiz expanded orthopedics and virtual care, which is "absolutely paramount" with the kind of training conducted on Fort Sill, Shoffner said. Because Fort Sill is in a remote location compared to the rest of the country, being able to access virtual care is a game-changer, he added.
"I'm going to tell you, it's easy to work in a loving community like it is here in Oklahoma and Fort Sill. It's a team of teams, and we're humbled to have had the honor to be part of this team. (We) look forward to keeping a lot of the friendships and relationships that we have here. It means the world," Ortiz said on behalf of himself and his wife.
"The true gains and wins and achievements belong to the Reynolds staff, because they work with their hearts every day, and they figured all that out," Ortiz added.
Harter also welcomed Zinnante and his wife, Col. Rebecca Zinnante, who brought with them their children, Elizabeth, Joseph and Katherine.
"I'm humbled and truly honored for the opportunity to serve the Lawton-Fort Sill community," Zinnante said. "To those we proudly serve, you have my pledge that we will continue to strive daily to provide the best possible care."
Zinnante earned his commission in the Army Medical Service Corps through the University of Texas at Austin ROTC program in 1997. In addition to a bachelor's degree in biology he has a master's degree in environmental management from the University of Maryland University College, a master's degree in higher education administration from the University of Louisville, and a master's degree in strategic studies from the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
Zinnante's operational deployments include humanitarian assistance operations in support of Hurricane Katrina disaster relief in Louisiana and Hurricane Mitch in Honduras. He has also deployed three times: to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, to Operation Iraqi Freedom and to Colombia in support of counter-drug operations.