APHC tops out new laboratory building

Attendees at the Army Public Health Center Topping Out ceremony sign the topping-out beam before it is secured into place. APHC and Aberdeen Proving Ground Garrison officials gathered to sign the construction beam before it was raised and installed onto the building's platform during the Topping Out ceremony at the APG South (Edgewood) location. | Photo by Mark Valle, APHC

The Army Public Health Center commemorated the finishing of steel construction for its new laboratory replacement facility with a Topping Out ceremony Aug. 16, 2017. The ceremony took place on the construction site at Aberdeen Proving Ground South (Edgewood).

“Topping out” is a building construction term for a ceremony that marks when the last steel beam is placed at the top of a building. This tradition migrated to America with European craftsmen. The topping-out beam is signed by those who were significant throughout the building’s construction and the American flag is displayed.

During the APHC Topping Out ceremony, guests signed a beam that was painted white and displayed the logos of the Health Facilities Planning Agency; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Walsh-Gilbane Construction; Aberdeen Proving Ground and the ZGF/AEI/KPFF Joint Venture construction team as well as APHC. In addition to the signatures and logos, commemorative coins from these organizations were also attached to the beam.

Maj. Lyndsay Knoblock-Fast, the executive officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Health, U.S. Army Medical Command, narrated the ceremony; Lt. Col. Michael King, the Aberdeen Proving Ground chaplain, conducted the invocation; and Dr. and Col. Robert von Tersch, APHC director of Laboratory Sciences, narrated the history of the laboratory renovation initiative and explained the progression of APHC from its start to its current form.

“The lineage of the Army Public Health Center can be traced back more than 70 years to the Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, which was established at the beginning of World War II under the direct jurisdiction of the Army surgeon general,” von Tersch said. “This early laboratory was originally located at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health; it had a staff of three and an annual budget of $3,000.”

He explained the new laboratory facility will optimize the current and emerging public health missions at APHC.

“The new laboratory will allow staff from various APHC directorates to work in one location and with shared logistical and operational assets, in a space of approximately 279,000 gross square feet,” he said.

Col. Edward Chamberlayne, the commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District; Col. Michael Brennan, the commander for the U.S. Army Health Facility Planning Agency; Kevin Swain, the vice president of Walsh-Gilbane Joint Venture, and APHC Director John Resta, gave remarks expressing enthusiasm for the ongoing progress.

Chamberlayne and Brennan spoke about the joint effort of all parties involved in the planning and execution of the laboratory facility construction, future endeavors and the potential for growth and prosperity in the new facility.

Swain reflected on the progress the construction crew has made since the groundbreaking ceremony. He said he was honored to have a role in the facility’s construction and promised to see it to completion.

John Resta, director of the Army Public Health Center, addresses nearly 200 attendees during the Army Public Health Center Topping Out ceremony for the new replacement laboratory facility at APG South (Edgewood) Aug. 16, 2017. | Photo by Mark L. Valle, APHC

Resta called the completion of the building a major goal of his career and proposed a single suggestion to the crew, to complete it faster. He expressed gratitude to all of those involved in the process and said he believed the new facility would allow APHC to further its mission.

“A primary mission of the Army Public Health Center is our role in identifying and assessing those chemical, biological, radiological and physical hazards that threaten our Soldiers, their families and Army civilian employees in deployed locations, on installations and in our workplaces worldwide,” he said.

Nearly 200 attendees watched as the topping-out beam was set in place at the construction site and the unfurling of the American flag as it reached the top of the building.

The Army Public Health Center enhances Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.

For more information, visit the Army Public Health Center website at http://phc.amedd.army.mil.

By Cara Newcomer, Army Public Health Center