FORT DETRICK, Md. -- Chris Roan’s nearly 40-year career with the U.S. Army started with an unexpected piece of mail.
That mail -- a packet from a military junior college inquiring about his performance on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB -- helped set Roan, a recent high school graduate struggling to find his way, on a course to become one of the Army’s top medical logistics experts.
“I just fell in love with the military,” Roan said of his time at the now-closed Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri. “I had no idea what I wanted to do when I joined the Army, but it was the structure of the military that brought me direction. It gave me purpose.”
On Sept. 17, leaders at U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command and its direct-reporting unit, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, celebrated Roan’s career, including nearly 30 years of active-duty service and 10 more in civilian service, during a retirement ceremony at Fort Detrick.
USAMMA Commander Col. John “Ryan” Bailey said it was a bittersweet moment, calling Roan “a phenomenal leader for the Army medical department [and] for Army medical logistics.”
“I think I speak for everybody here in saying that your wisdom and your leadership will truly be missed,” Bailey said.
Roan, 59, a resident of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, had been serving as director of the Integrated Logistics Support Center, an operational element under AMLC as the life cycle management command for medical logistics.
Before that, he served as chief of staff for USAMMA and, by way of necessity, AMLC as the command was created through an Army realignment in 2019.
AMLC Deputy Commander Col. Timothy Walsh, who served as interim AMLC commander alongside Roan during the formation process, said Roan was always serious about his work, but never forgot to put people first.
“It’s not the ribbons on your chest,” he said. “It’s the stories that you have, the people you meet and the lives you’ve impacted.”
Positively impacting -- and potentially saving -- lives was always one of the most rewarding parts of his job, Roan said.
“Every day, you go home, you know you’ve done something for somebody, somewhere,” he said.
After growing up in a small town in New Jersey, Roan enrolled in the ROTC program at Kemper Junior Military College in Boonville, Missouri, earning commission into the Army Medical Service Corps in 1982.
From there, he finished his post-secondary education and joined the active-duty ranks in 1984.
Roan’s first assignment took him to South Korea, working in a medical battalion with the 2nd Infantry Division. When he returned to the United States, he went to airborne school in 1985 and served as a platoon leader and company commander for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Over the years, he has served in numerous leadership positions, taught medical logistics courses, and deployed to Panama and Bosnia in support of different missions.
From 2004 to 2006, Roan served as deputy commander for operations at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe, another of AMLC’s current direct-reporting units.
In 2012, he retired from active-duty service at the rank of colonel, but quickly returned as a civilian working for the Office of the Army Surgeon General, U.S. Army Medical Command and later the former Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, which is now Army Medical Research and Development Command.
“I really feel like I’ve had a unique opportunity to be a medical logistician,” Roan said, reflecting on his career. “I didn’t want to be one; didn’t have a desire to be that … I wanted to be an infantry guy and take that hill.
“But I’ve found medical logistics to be absolutely rewarding.”
Knowledge, expertise ‘will be missed’
During Roan’s ceremony, Dawn Rosarius, principal assistant for acquisition for MRDC, presented him with a Senior Executive Service note and letter on behalf of MRDC and Fort Detrick Commander Brig. Gen. Anthony McQueen.
Rosarius thanked Roan for his support and guidance over the years to MRDC and other medical logistics efforts. She expressed appreciation for his work in advancing medical solutions to the force.
“Your expert knowledge and expertise will be missed,” she said.
Roan said being able to come back in 2018 to work for USAMMA, an organization he relied on heavily over his career for medical materiel support, was a dream come true.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done, but what I’m most happy about is not my personal accomplishments because you don’t do anything by yourself,” Roan said. “It’s really having been part of this medical logistics community.
“I’m not proud of what I’ve done. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to contribute.”
Roan and his wife of 32 years, Marcia, also an Army veteran, are retiring to North Carolina to be closer to family. They have three children Katheryn, John and Scott.