Col. Carol Gaddy and Brig. Gen. Oscar S. DePriest study plans for the new medical unit.
PINELLAS PARK – A new Army Reserve medical unit with more than 28,000 members from the United States and Puerto Rico will be headquartered at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserves Center here starting Oct. 16.
The Army Reserve Medical Command or AR-MEDCOM is the largest functional command within the Army Reserves and includes 258 medical units.
“Today’s medical soldiers have so many specialties that they had to be placed under one very efficient command,” said Brig. Gen. Oscar S. DePriest, who will head the new unit.
DePriest, a Boston dentist and 30-year Army veteran, said 374 soldiers and civilians will be assigned to the Pinellas Park facility. About 260 of them will be full time civilians and reservists.
The consolidation was spearheaded by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, Army reserve commander, who saw the need to keep all medical personnel under one roof.
Col. Carol Gaddy, chief of staff, said the command will allow rapid deployment of medical personnel at home or abroad.
“The military will be able to centrally manage all reserve units while streamlining mobilization efforts,” Gaddy said.
The units include all types of doctors, dentists and enlisted support personnel.
Offices and cubicles currently are being constructed and assigned for the new personnel expected to arrive between now and October.
Many reservists and National Guardsmen stationed here have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. However, DePriest said use of the center by the medical command did not result due to the main building not being used to full capacity.
DePriest said the influx of soldiers and civilians will have a positive effect on the local economy since most will or have already purchased homes in the area. Some will be assigned here up to five years before rotation to another station.
An apartment complex across the street from the center already boasts a banner advertising special deals for military personnel.
Both DePriest and Gaddy, herself a veteran of the first Gulf War, denied reports of recruitment and retention problems.
“The all-volunteer Army of today is all about getting families of military personnel involved,” DePriest said. “That helps morale and retaining troops because they have the support of their families.”
Indeed, a volunteer soldier is in the military due to patriotism. Many soldiers during the years the draft was in effect just wanted to get their military service done and return to civilian life.
DePriest said the Army’s medical expertise far surpasses that of its civilian counterpart. He said artificial limbs are so advanced today that amputees are back in uniform and even assigned to paratroops units.
“I have talked with wounded soldiers and most feel a great camaraderie with their peers,” DePriest said. “All feel that the medical treatment they receive is second to none.”