In a stole ceremony hosted by Maj. Gen. Patrick, D. Sargent, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE Commander, on December 19, 2019, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Valeria Van Dress was installed as the very first command chaplain for the organization.A stole ceremony is a time honored tradition that typically symbolizes the passing of spiritual leadership. The stole holds a special place for clergy. Clergy wear stoles as symbols of their spiritual leadership and a tangible reminder of their responsibility to their faith and to the people to whom they serve to provide pastoral care and guidance. During the ceremony a stole is placed on the shoulders of the chaplain who will then shoulder the responsibility of spiritual leadership within the unit.An inaugural stole bestowed on Van Dress was black in color and adorned with the MEDCoE crest and the words, "Conserving the Fighting Spirit."Prior to Van Dress's appointment, Chaplain (Col.) Roy Myers, Chief, Department of Pastoral Ministry Training, or DPMT, assumed the additional duty of command chaplain for MEDCoE. Simultaneous to MEDCoE's realignment to TRADOC DPMT's higher headquarters was changed from the U.S. Army Medical Command to the Chief of Chaplaincy. Myers and his family, who were farewelled prior to the MEDCoE Stole Ceremony, will now be reassigned to TRADOC's Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, S.C., reporting just after the holiday break.Sargent praised Myers for his dedicated support of the MEDCoE mission for the last two years and thanked him for taking such great care of thousands of Army Medicine Soldiers despite being dual hatted."These (Chaplains) are people who we go to when things are bad, so I just want to thank you." Sargent said he is equally professionally and personally grateful for all that Myers has done. "I know that even I have placed some heavy burdens that have been prayed upon by this young man (Chaplain Myers)," said Sargent."As you transition I know that you and Dana will make an indelible impact on the Chaplain Center and School," concluded Sargent.Van Dress, whose prior position was Deputy Chaplain for MEDCoE, will have the opportunity to be a command chaplain, solely dedicated to serve as spiritual leader within the command without the added DPMT requirement, able to focus on ensuring the free exercise of religion by resourcing and supervising the MEDCoE Unit Ministry Teams, or UMTs. The UMTs provide religious support and moral leadership to soldiers, their families and civilians.Chaplain (Col.) David Wake, Command Chaplain, U.S. Army Combined Army Center, CAC, said that the placement of a command chaplain directly at the MEDCoE fulfills both the requirement to advise the commander on the best way to care for soldiers wounded in combat and the requirement to develop chaplains and religious affairs specialists with the skills necessary to meet the unique mission of the medical community.Wake, who is responsible for coordinating religious support across CAC within the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, explained that the MEDCoE was the first CoE to appoint a command chaplain since the realignment and that Van Dress was uniquely qualified for that challenge.Wake said, "Since being one of the first female chaplains assigned to a brigade combat team to being the first COE Command Chaplain in TRADOC, Chaplain Van Dress continues to break trail and forge new opportunities in the Army Chaplaincy."Sargent concluded the ceremony by praising the many company, battalion and brigade religious support personnel within MEDCoE who were present for the ceremony."You guys have played a significant role; incalculable as it relates to preserving life in our organization," said Sargent. "You nurture us in a way that, I know, we cannot even understand and we are thankful."Speaking directly to Van Dress Sargent said, "As the Command Chaplain I am going to ask that you and your team continue to find a way to reach every single one of our soldiers in these very meaningful ways."