More than 500 people from the Department of Defense; Department of the Army; and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland employees, retirees, family members and friends, attended the 75th Anniversary Celebration for the Army Public Health Center and its predecessor organizations at the APG South (Edgewood) recreation center, Sept. 26, 2017.
Joel Gaydos, a retired colonel and APHC employee, narrated the event.
Jonathan Oyler of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense sang the national anthem, and Chaplain Lt. Col. Michael King, of the APG Garrison, provided the invocation.
Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command gave the welcoming remarks.
“I am amazed at how you transformed this recreation center,” said Taylor, about the massive historical photos and displays that highlighted the successes of Army public health over the past seven decades. “It shows that you don’t need a quality facility to do something great; you just need quality people.”
During the ceremony, retired Col. Gerald Delaney, who retired from the Army Environmental Hygiene Agency, or AEHA, a predecessor organization of the APHC, gave an alumni presentation, sharing some of his fondest memories as an AEHA employee.
John Resta, APHC director, talked about the APHC’s proud
heritage and its commitment to taking care of Warfighters through the years.
“Cultures protect those things they value,” said Resta. “We protect Soldiers.”
Lt. Gen. Nadja West, U.S. Army surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, served as the keynote speaker for the event. West commended Army public health and preventive medicine practitioners for their contributions to Army Medicine.
“The Army Public Health Center is the go-to organization for education and prevention of disease, injury and illness in our Army,” said West. “You have helped Army medicine move from a healthcare system to a system for health – a system where we give our Army family the tools they need to build and sustain their own good health.”
Guests gathered for lunch after the ceremony and APHC facilities were open for building tours throughout the afternoon.
The lineage of the APHC can be traced back to 1942 with the founding of the Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, or AIHL, which was established at the beginning of World War II under the direct jurisdiction of the Army surgeon general. The AIHL originally was located at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health; it had a staff of three and an annual budget of $3,000. Its mission was to conduct occupational health surveys and investigations within the DOD industrial production base, a mission that proved beneficial to the nation’s war effort. Since it’s relocation to Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1945, the AIHL has transformed to support the Army’s ever-changing needs to its current state as the Army Public Health Center.
The APHC reached provisional status Aug. 17, 2015. Its predecessor organization, the U.S. Army Public Health Command, was created Oct. 1, 2011, from the merger of the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the U.S. Army Veterinary Command.
The formal uniting of prevention, health promotion and veterinary missions allowed for full coordination, synchronization and integration of the military public health services around the globe.
“We are celebrating our 75th anniversary of a continuous line of organizations that provide safe and healthy environments for our Soldiers, civilians, retirees, government-owned animals and Army communities worldwide,” said Resta.
Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the APHC is a field operating agency assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Command, or MEDCOM, and it is unique among MEDCOM organizations in these ways:
• Its “patients” are populations, that is groups of people—military units, their families or Army civilian employees, for example—rather than individuals.
• It emphasizes prevention of disease, injury and disability, rather than healing those who have already experienced these conditions.
• It is proactive, optimizing health by educating members of the Army population about healthy behaviors, empowering them to build and sustain their own good health.
Public health mission
The APHC public health responsibilities are extremely far-reaching. They extend beyond humans to include animals and the environment, where some of the causes of disease, injury and disability in people originate. Avian flu, unsafe drinking water, food that has spoiled or has not been safely processed or prepared, ineffective sanitation measures in the aftermath of natural disaster, exposure to industrial chemicals, mold in the workplace— are just a few examples of the health threats stemming from animals or the environment that Army public health professionals address.
“While our public health mission has evolved over the course of 75 years, the constant consummate professionalism of our workforce has never changed,” said Resta.
APHC personnel have expertise in a variety of fields. Their professions include almost 70 scientific and technical disciplines, which are brought to bear on public health issues and problems in matrixed teams.
The APHC continues to fulfill its mission of enhancing Army readiness and focusing on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces.
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 APHC website at http://phc.amedd.army.mil
By Chanel Weaver, Army Public Health Center