FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Base Realignment and Closure project to expand Brooke Army Medical Center is moving into an accelerated phase of construction with the completion of the structural steel frame of the hospital's seven-story addition.

To celebrate, a "Topping Out" ceremony was held Feb. 25 to mark the placement of the last steel girder needed at the top of the addition to finish the frame.

The final beam was signed by several members of the San Antonio military community including Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw, commander, Fort Sam Houston and Army Medical Department Center & School and U.S. Army Garrison Commander Col. Mary Garr.

Several coins were also affixed to the beam representing a variety of military commands.

The completion of the structural steel frame allows the project's focus to shift toward finishing exterior walls, plumbing and electrical components.

The seven-story addition will expand BAMC by approximately 760,000 square feet and provide space for 200 more beds, a Level 1 trauma center, operating rooms, clinical and administrative space, and an extension of BAMC's internationally-acclaimed burn center.

The next phase of construction is expected to more than double the roughly 500 construction workers currently on site and increase the pace of construction as the project moves toward its completion deadline in 2011.

Already, more than one million labor hours have been devoted to the project.

(Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)