(HUMPHREYS SOUTH KOREA) Life goes on even in the midst of a global pandemic and commands change hands, responsibilities shift. On April 23, 2021 on the Humphreys Parade Field, Capt. Louis Rivas handed the unit guidon to Capt. Clayton Bender as the ‘Paladins’ of the 568th Medical Ground Ambulance Company watched on. This change of command became unique in that it was the first time the company came together despite social distancing guidelines.
Previously, when Rivas took command a year ago, the COVID-19 protocols for gatherings dictated the change of command be virtual with only the guidon and incoming and outgoing commanders on the field with the unit first sergeant and reviewing officer.
This past year the ‘Ride or Die Team’ of Paladins exhibited the resiliency and adaptability as an element of the 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion.
In his departing comments, Rivas boasted about elements of the unit could be found in a variety of locales to include the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy, the Sgt. Shin Woo Kim Soldier Centered Medical Home, manning the COVID-19 Hotline, working in the consolidated motor pool, the garrison postal offices, the COVID Vaccination Center, conducting numerous vaccination exercises throughout the peninsula and providing support to every major subordinate command within the Eighth United States Army.
“This past year has been phenomenal, and it has been a pleasure to see this company grow in responsibility and adapt to everything the battalion, the brigade and COVID-19 have thrown at us with the utmost professionalism,” said the outgoing commander, Rivas.
Lt. Col. Charles Douglas, the reviewing officer for the ceremony and the commander of the 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, recalls the lonely ceremony a year ago and how it became a precedence used not only by 8th Army in how they conducted similar ceremonial events as the foundational enterprise now being used throughout the Army enterprise.
“A year ago, under our new normal of social distancing, and ensuring proper force health protection measures, Rivas arrived at a unit that was conducting split based operations between Humphreys and Daegu, battling the front lines of the COVID fight at secondary screening sites, supporting tertiary screening at the outlying clinics and establishing new practices that would become the standard for Korea operations,” said Douglas.
Continuing his remarks, Douglas praised Rivas and the 568th on their path of excellence in a myriad of unchartered missions that the unit had never done before. For example, the successful integration of medical personnel into the Quarantine Medical Management Mission in direct support of U.S. Forces Korea’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID throughout the Korea Theater of Operations, enabling the screening of over 25,000 servicemembers, civilians and family members as well as establishing 11 secondary and two tertiary screening sites across USAG Daegu to ensure a population of over 10,000 were successfully screened and supported at the onset of the pandemic at the every epicenter of COVID’s arrival in Daegu.
“The Paladins under his (Rivas) leadership not only focused on routine company operations but exceeded in improving their combat capabilities by 33% with CBRN training, weapons proficiency increased from 53% to 100% qualified on assigned weapons,” said Douglas.
The unit also became the first in Korea to modernize their vehicle fleet in decades with 24 new ground ambulances.
“The accomplishments of the unit under Rivas’s guidance are a reflection of those who serve alongside him and everyone realizes they are a Soldier first and must survive in a highly contested environment in order to conduct the critical task of saving lives on the battlefield,” concluded Douglas.
Continuing in the path of Rivas will be incoming commander, Capt. Clayton Bender, who is no stranger to the Pacific Medic team, in that he previously worked at the Brigade Medical Plans Branch Center of Excellence.
Douglas exclaimed that Bender is the perfect leader to assume the mantle of leadership for the Paladins and guide them with confidence and competence to the next level of excellence during the evolving legacy of medical aid and support.