By John Harlow/USAG Natick Public AffairsAugust 24, 2012
NATICK, Mass. -- On a sunny day 777 days ago, Maj. Gen. James Gilman, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, took the unit colors from Col. Kevin Keenan and presented them to Col. Gaston Bathalon as the 17th commander of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Today, Gilman took the unit colors from Bathalon and handed command to Col. Deborah Whitmer as the 18th USARIEM Commander.
Whitmer comes to USARIEM from her previous position as the deputy commander of the Army Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. She has served the Nation in uniform since 1980 when she entered the University of California, Davis, Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Gilman spoke highly of both the outgoing and incoming USARIEM commanders in his remarks.
"Gaston was known around my command as the happy commander," said Gilman. "He was always smiling and when I would be having a rough day, I would call Gaston to cheer me up. He took USARIEM to new heights and was an outstanding leader of the organization.
"Col. Whitmer, you're assuming command of a top-notch research facility and a great team," Gilman continued. "I know you will make this organization reach even new heights and continue to do research that is critical to our Army."
As Whitmer addressed her Soldiers and workforce for the first time as the USARIEM commander, she talked about the honor it is to be the 18th USARIEM Commander and what it means to the unit.
"A change in the senior leader of an organization is a significant event for all within and everyone that engages with that unit," said Whitmer. "It is also a very exciting time as well as part of an Army tradition. Therefore it is an honor and distinct privilege to be the 18th commander of USARIEM.
"I am now entrusted with a motivated professional organization made that way by a dedicated, hard working and highly effective group of military, Department of the Army civilians and contractor personnel all committed to the USARIEM research mission. Leading the USARIEM team will be an exciting endeavor. We will work through any and all challenges, otherwise known as opportunities that are in our future.
Bathalon, who is retiring with 30 years of service to our Nation and 14 years of service at USARIEM noted that his time in command of USARIEM was the highest achievement of his career.
He talked about the command that Col. Whitmer is assuming.
"Today is not so much about what has been, but more importantly what is to come," said Bathalon. "Deb (Whitmer), the job is now yours. I wish you much success as you take over the best job the Army has to offer -- commanding this incredible organization. I have no doubt that you will take USARIEM to greater heights and further achievements. I know that the men and women of USARIEM will serve you as their mew commander with the same respect and zeal that they have given me."
USARIEM is the Department of Defense's premier research organization for warfighter performance and environmental medicine. It provides support to America's military at home and abroad. The mission is to provide solutions to optimize warfighter health and performance through medical research.
USARIEM is recognized by many DoD organizations as the trusted leader in medical research and the work is further aimed at enhancing performance and medically protecting military personnel from operational stress and exposure to extremes in heat, cold and high terrestrial altitudes.