LANDSTUHL, Germany -- To say Col. Rodney Coldren has been busy the last year-and-a-half would be an understatement. As the Regional Health Command Europe and U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Health Emergency Officer, Coldren has been the defacto face of Regional Health Command Europe on all things COVID-19.
“COVID has been the biggest thing to happen to the world in the last 100 years, since the 1918 flu,” said Coldren.
As COVID-19 crept into Europe in early 2020, Coldren and Army public health officials across the theater geared up to do battle.
“If you recall, northern Italy was just decimated,” said Coldren, who is also the director of Human Health Services for Public Health Command Europe. “They were rationing intensive care beds and it was close to where we have a significant troop population so we put all eyes onto that area. I delegated a lot of my administrative functions so I could concentrate on my job as Public Health Emergency Officer, providing guidance to leadership on protective measures that we recommended our formations take. That occupied my life full time for several months.”
Coldren first came to PHCE as the director of epidemiology and disease surveillance, following a broad range of assignments across the United States, as well as Korea, Thailand and Kenya.
“One of my major duties at PHCE was working with public affairs to get messaging out to the public about emerging threats and well-known threats in Europe like Lyme disease,” he said. “After a couple of years, I became the director of human health services, which oversees all aspects of human public health.”
This experience helped prepare him for his role as PHEO, where he was responsible for monitoring COVID-19 infection rates and providing recommendations to senior leaders on appropriate actions to limit the spread of infection and protect the military community in Europe.
Coldren is now getting ready to retire from the Army on June 30. He commissioned in May 1987.
“I’ve never had another job in my life other than kid jobs,” said Coldren. “I stayed in because I’ve enjoyed the jobs I had and I found the military community comfortable.”
Coldren started in medicine as a family medicine physician. He practiced in both a hospital and clinic setting and at one point, ran an urgent care center.
“I eventually discovered my real passion in life was public health and preventative medicine,” he said.
Coldren’s post-retirement plans include retiring to his farm in Pennsylvania.
“My wife and I are very passionate about conservation, ecological issues, and the humane treatment of animals,” he said. “We’ll work to raise all of our own food.”
Coldren says that hanging up the uniform after 30 years won’t be easy, but he takes comfort in the fact that he’ll always be connected to his Army family.
“Even though I won’t be in the Army anymore, I will always be Col. Coldren,” he added. “I’ll remain on the Army’s retired list and I think that’s kind of cool.”
Coldren offered the following career advice to young Soldiers just starting their career.
“Seek out assignments because you want to do the job and not necessarily what you think will help advance your career,” he said. “I believe that following your passions is really important and the Army can help you do that. I’ve enjoyed every assignment I’ve had.”