(PYEOUNGTAEK, SOUTH KOREA) Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
For the past 22 months, this has been the mantra that Lt. Col. Sarah Torres used on a daily basis as the commander of the 502nd Field Hospital.
On May 20, 2021, Torres relinquished command to Lt. Col. Qui Nguy at a ceremony on the patio of the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital at Humphreys.
Reflecting back on her time as commander, Torres spoke of the hurdling challenges that the “Silver Dragons” have had to overcome since the unit’s activation in July of 2019, the transition from one installation to another, building the unit from the ground up and managing the dual personnel mission.
“Looking back, I am proud of each and every member of this team for the way they have managed the daily armistice healthcare across the peninsula while simultaneously moving a hospital, personnel and equipment 85km across Korea,” said Torres. “The detachment commanders and staff were not only actively engaged in the fielding of over $11 million of new equipment as part of our conversion, but ensuring the team also maintained their focus on readiness and training.”
Taking care of people and making a change for the better is a philosophy that Torres and the 502nd live daily even with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic hurdle of keeping the community safe and healthy did not stop the 502nd from getting out there and training to ensure we remained ready,” said Torres.
At the onset of the pandemic in Korea, elements of the unit deployed with less than 72 hours some 140km south to Camp Carroll in Daegu to establish the first Department of Defense Isolation Center to treat COVID-19 positive patients.
The 150th Medical Detachment successfully deployed to Area North twice to establish their 32-bed medical detachment to augment the Role II capabilities.
Last month, the entire 502nd FH deployed their entire 32-bed field hospital for a training exercise to continue the focus on readiness.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the team was operating the Reception Center to screen inbound personnel and provide support to the numerous contact-tracing tests and establishing the COVID-19 Vaccination Center.
“Training during the pandemic has been difficult, but it has not stopped us from remaining ready, despite the majority of the unit personnel serving as borrowed military manpower for the day-to-day operation of the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital,” said the outgoing commander during her remarks.
Those priorities will continue under the leadership of the new incoming commander, Lt. Col. Qui Nguy. “It is without question, a distinct honor and privilege for me to be afforded the opportunity to take command having previously served as the 65th Medical Brigade S4. My top priority is to continue to keep the unit ready to fight tonight and continue to provide top quality healthcare to our beneficiaries.”
As the reviewer of the ceremony, Col. Huy Luu, the 549th Hospital Commander praised Torres and her command achievements. “Command is truly a privilege, and there are many ways that leaders have exercised their command authority and responsibility. Some have ambitions of righting all the wrongs, fixing all the deficiencies, others set new goals and standards wanting to transform the organization, but (Torres) had a different objective.”
“When her command time is complete, she wanted the silver dragon family to know that she cares, and always supported them. She is passionate when it comes to making sure that her Soldiers have what they need to not only perform the mission but to thrive both professionally and personally, continued Luu.
One way of her caring was to mentor and build the next generation of leaders, by giving advice to the Junior Officer Council and standing up the “Sisters in Arms” mentorship group.