By Spc. A.M. LaVeyApril 22, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The Dragon medics of the 44th Medical Command held a one-of-a-kind ceremony here today. The unit were inactivated and reactivated as the 44th Medical Brigade, and they held change-of-command as well as a commander's retirement ceremony.
The 44th was originally stood up as a brigade in 1966 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and after meritorious service in Vietnam, moved to Fort Bragg, where it became a separate major subordinate command reporting directly to the commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
The 44th Medical Brigade has participated in numerous campaigns and operations other than war, including humanitarian service both domestic and abroad. After service in the Middle East during the 1990s, the Brigade converted to a multi-component medical command in 2001.
The 44th "does everything proficiently, professionally, and without wasting any effort," said Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. These Dragon medics "are some of the finest Soldiers the Army has to offer. Every one of them volunteers to serve America's Army in an incredible blend of selfless service, confidence, and uncommon professionalism."
The 44th "Medical Command provides care under all conditions, anywhere they called and they have successfully accomplished every tough mission that the Army has given them," said Helmick, and "during a critical time in our nation's history, they are able to sustain medical core competencies and save the lives of our Soldiers in combat."
Col. Ronald A. Maul, the retiring commander of the 44th, is a board-certified family practice osteopathic physician who has served in uniform since 1977 in a career in which he has been with the active Army, the National Guard, and the U.S. Public Health Service.
Maul "has been at the top of the pyramid in the medical community for the last two-and-a-half years."
"We cannot do anything without our Soldiers - Soldiers like [Maul] who cares for his own family and made sure that his Soldiers were trained to standard," said Helmick. "Sometimes as a commander, you have to make unpopular decisions to make your mission succeed...whatever they might be called to do. [This unit] has succeeded in every mission under [Maul's] watch."
"What the Army is losing today cannot be replaced, because [Maul] is taking with him 33 years of leadership and experience," said Helmick. "He has served his country with distinction and represents the highest values of our nation."
"To be an Army physician has been phenomenally fulfilling and a rewarding profession," said Maul. "To provide medical care to our Servicemembers, their families and our retirees has had no equal - personally or professionally."
"Confucius once remarked that if you find a job that you love, you would really never work a day in your life and I believe that I found that job," said Maul.
The incoming commander is no stranger to the 44th. Col. Donald R. West, an aeromedical evacuation pilot, previously served as the commander of the 86th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Campbell, Ky., including a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
West "is a perfect fit for this unique medical brigade," said Helmick. "I can think of no finer leader to command the unit. He is a proven combat veteran and his unparallel medical and aviation experience will make a seamless transition as this brigade prepares for the challenges ahead."
"I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to be assigned to the 44th again," said West. This unit "is built on the tremendous achievements of some many distinguished Soldiers - like those who grace the field today and by my processors."
"I am enormously proud to serve as your commander, a job which I accept with pride," said West, "and I am resolved to serve each of you."
The reactivation of the 44th Medical Brigade, only one of only five in the Army, made history today. For the Dragon medics of the 44th and those who support them, the unit has a special place in the history of Army medicine.
"In view of the MEDCOM's past accomplishments and quality of its past leaders, I know the MEDCOM will long be remembered for its Soldiers, these Dragon medics that always given 100 percent to everything that they have," said Maul.
"With the deactivation of the 44th Medical Command, it will be remembered as one of the premier units of the XVIII Airborne Corps," said Maul. "At the same time, the brigade welcomes these innovative and exciting changes in the Army organization and doctrine which will provide them with new challenges and opportunities."