With a simple countdown and nine pairs of scissors cutting a band of red ribbon simultaneously, the long-anticipated Ireland Army Health Clinic new facility opened for business at Fort Knox Jan. 21.
Hundreds of personnel from the clinic joined local, regional and national Army leaders as well as civic leaders from the surrounding communities and the state of Kentucky to christen the building. Among them was one who was instrumental in planning the move over 10 years before.
"It's awesome to be able to see the fruition of all that work," said Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of Defense Health Agency. "This is huge for me personally but for the community, it's an incredible day."
Place commanded the hospital from 2009 to 2011. He and his staff were drafting the initial plans back then for a new medical treatment facility -- "when we thought it was going to be a replacement hospital back when Accessions Command was here, the [3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division] was here; all that stuff was here."
Fast-forward 10 years, he told the crowd it was great to have the opportunity to see Ireland's transformation to the end.
"This community and this medical facility has a special place in my heart, and a special place in my family, really," said Place. "My first command was here, and it's where I remember all the typical highs and lows that come with brigade command."
As director of DHA, Place is responsible for 55 full-service hospitals and more than 370 clinics at military installations worldwide. The command is considered one of the largest health systems in the nation, and Place took charge of it in September 2019.
At the ceremony, Place said a building doesn't make a clinic outstanding but rather the people operating within it and the sense of community that installation personnel and their families bring through the doors. However, the Ireland facility holds another special place for him.
"Today, I get to return with new responsibilities for the military hospitals and clinics throughout the country, but this is my first opportunity to help open a new facility as the director of the Defense Health Agency."
Place's brother, Regional Health Command-Atlantic Commander Brig. Gen. Michael Place, also attended the ceremony, highlighting what he called the family business and its links to Fort Knox.
"For those of you who don't recall, Lt. Gen. Place was a previous hospital commander here of Ireland. Our other brother Tom was stationed here for a couple of years when there was a separate armor brigade here, and was a brigade surgeon for them," said Michael Place. "My wife actually was here -- her father came here for Officer Basic -- when she was a young girl she was here as well, so our ties to this community go relatively deep."
Major Gen. John Evans Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, spoke briefly to the crowd, specifically thanking the personnel who will work daily at the facility.
"What I'd like to do is just remind you what our Chief of Staff of the Army says every day," said Evans. "He says that winning matters, and it does, because should deterrence fail, the American people expect our Army to win, and win decisively on the battlefield. In order to do that we have to have fit, ready and resilient Soldiers each and every day."
Evans concluded by highlighting what's behind the intent for the state-of-the-art facility, namely keeping healthy the active duty service members, National Guardsmen, Reservists, civilians and family members: "It will give us an opportunity to make sure we are meeting the Chief's intent to build ready, and resilient, and fit Soldiers for the long term."