NATICK, Mass. (July 29, 2020) – Col. Troy Morton assumed command of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine during a Change of Command ceremony at the Hunter Auditorium on July 28.
Morton took over from Col. Sean O’Neil as Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, presided. About 40 Soldiers, Civilians, family members and guests attended the event, while hundreds of others watched remotely on Microsoft Teams.
Morton previously served as the High Reliability Director and Global Health Engagement Planner for Clinical Operations, U.S. Army Regional Health Command-Pacific, in Hawaii.
O’Neil is delaying his retirement up to a year to support Operation Warp Speed, a U.S. government public-private partnership to facilitate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Talley described Morton as a “motivator” who has been successful in all of his endeavors due to his “superb leadership skills.” He particularly highlighted Morton’s achievements at Winn Army Community Hospital in Fort Stewart, Georgia, from 2015 to 2017, where he was the first Army podiatrist to serve as Deputy Commander Surgical Services.
“Col. Morton was directly responsible for transforming Winn Army Community Hospital to one of the very best performing medical treatment facilities in the Army,” Talley said. “As Chief of Surgery, he accomplished this by spearheading the expansion of surgical services to enhance the greatest capabilities of the entire staff. He did this while also improving the overall organization performance.
“Col. Morton, I am confident that you are the perfect commander to keep USARIEM moving forward and exceeding expectations,” Talley said.
As he addressed his Soldiers and workforce for the first time as the USARIEM Commander, Morton talked about life lessons he learned from his father, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Marine Regiment 4-2 in Vietnam.
His father, Bobby Morton, was severely wounded by artillery during the Tet Offensive, resulting in him being medevacked and requiring multiple surgeries. He took the enemy mortar round after realizing his squad was under attack and unable to get a radio transmission for fire support. He moved to an area that would allow him to call in coordinates. However, this exposed him and resulted in his injury. After returning to the U.S., he received a Purple Heart.
Morton said his father helped shape him into the leader he is today.
“One of the most important lessons I learned from my father, before entering Basic Training, is that the Sergeant Major sets the standard, the example, for others,” Morton said. “Team USARIEM will be like a Sergeant Major, where we will continue to set the standard. As the Commander of USARIEM, it is my promise to support you, get my radio and run into the field.”
Talley praised O’Neil for his "mission-dedicated, hands-on" leadership approach during a pivotal point in USARIEM’s history.
The past two years brought many changes to USARIEM. USAMRDC’s realignment under the Army Futures Command was a significant milestone in the history of Army medical research because the transition centralized all research and development, including medical, under one command.
Since this change, USARIEM has continued to “Forge the Future” to ensure warfighters remain ready to dominate in multi-domain operations. O’Neil was appointed co-lead for the AFC Sprint Team to Maximizing Human Potential in Multi-Domain Operations, with the vision of Soldiers and leaders as part of multi-domain formations capable of operating at peak cognitive, physical and emotional potential performance.
“Soldier performance will be the most critical factor in the success of multi-domain operations,” Talley said. “In a rapidly changing environment, USARIEM’s work as the leader in Human Performance research is more important than ever. The solutions developed here will ensure that America’s sons and daughters have the tools needed to successfully deploy, fight and win anytime, anywhere with optimized performance.”
Talley also commended O’Neil for his swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic. O’Neil challenged the USARIEM workforce to “Charlie Mike,” or “continue mission.” USARIEM has adapted by using their unique research capabilities to contribute to USAMRDC’s efforts in identifying and supporting diagnostic testing capabilities. The Institute is currently evaluating the use of technologies and wearable systems to detect key early symptoms and fever.
Talley added that in the last months of his final assignment, O’Neil assumed responsibility for the entire Natick installation, in addition to his role as USARIEM commander, because the pandemic delayed the arrival of incoming commander Brig. Gen. James Bienlien. Now, O’Neil is moving on to support Operation Warp Speed.
“Sean continues to step up in a time when most people plan to step down,” Talley said. “His story could have simply read that a local Massachusetts Soldier came back to his home state, finished his Army career and retired. Luckily for us, that’s just not how Sean operates.
“This critical assignment, Operation Warp Speed, in defending the nation from the threat of COVID-19 is akin to his other deployments. As the Army works to attack and treat this virus, Sean is answering the call of duty to the nation.”
Morton also saluted O’Neil’s service at USARIEM.
O’Neil said he was “inspired each day” by the USARIEM workforce, who has “adapted and thrived” as they met these changes, and continued to serve and dedicate their talents to their mission of optimizing Soldier health and performance.
“The fingerprints of USARIEM scientists are found throughout the Army—from the recruiting process; to training conducted at training centers and at units at every camp, post and station; including our units in combat or those on the front lines of the current COVID crisis,” O’Neil said. “Everywhere you look, a Soldier is wearing, eating, carrying or using knowledge that is based on science that was conducted by Team USARIEM.
“And someday, on a multi-domain battlefield of the future, our Soldiers will win the day because USARIEM scientists dedicated their talents and skills to optimizing health and enhancing performance. Col. Morton, you are getting a great team. I know they’ll inspire you too.”
In his closing remarks, Talley praised the USARIEM workforce for their “commitment and dedication” to their mission.
“For the past two years, USARIEM has remained innovative and relevant to Army modernization priorities,” Talley said. “This year has been far from easy. You continue to deliver solutions to the warfighter, while also delivering solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. I could not be prouder of the ongoing work that this great team has done for the military and the nation.”