THE FORMATION OF THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT REGIMENT
By Robert L. Ampula
Administrative Officer, US Army Medical Department Regiment
The United States Army traces its history back to the Continental Army which was established on June 14, 1775 prior to the formation of the United States. A little more than a month later, the Continental Congress created the Army Medical Department for that Army on 27 July 1775. Although it was not called the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) at that time, it was undoubtedly the birth of Army Medicine. From that day in July of 1775, the Army Medical Department has embarked upon a proud journey through American history. It wasn’t until 1986, however, that all of the heritage, history and traditions of the Army Medical Department were encapsulated under one organization and united under one flag. That year saw the activation of the Army Medical Department Regiment. As the Army Medical Department approaches its 238th birthday, it seems an appropriate time to look back on the origin of the AMEDD Regiment 27 years ago.
The formation of the Regiment actually began 5 years earlier in 1981 when the United States Army Regimental System (USARS) was created by direction of the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Edward C. Meyer. He would subsequently leave the Army before full implementation was achieved but General John A. Wickham Jr. would continue to champion the endeavor. The original concept was created to provide each Soldier with continuous identification to a single Regiment and to support that concept with a personnel system that would increase a Soldier’s probability of serving recurring assignments with his or her Regiment. (1) The concept encompassed the active Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserve.
The Mission of the USARS was defined in 1986 as follows: The mission is to enhance combat effectiveness through a framework that provides the opportunity for affiliation, develops loyalty and commitment, fosters an extended sense of belonging, improves unit esprit, and institutionalizes the war fighting ethos. The concept offers the opportunity for long-term identification with a regiment or corps and provides the potential for recurring assignments within a regiment or corps and also provides the opportunity to further emphasize the history, customs, and traditions of the regiment or corps. That mission remains unchanged today.
Unlike the plans for the Combat Arms which have multiple Regiments and Corps, the plan for Combat Support (CS), Combat Service Support (CSS), and Special Branches was to fully integrate them into the USARS under the “whole branch” concept. This concept was not universally embraced by leaders of these organizations. It was argued by some that the Regimental System could not be effectively integrated into CS, CSS and Special Branches. They voiced their concerns to the Chief of Staff by pointing out that Combat Arms organizations could move together whereas the whole branch concept precluded this option. The Chief of Staff acknowledged their concerns but directed the CS, CSS and Special Branches to continue plans to become part of the Regimental System.
On 5 September 1985, the U.S. Army Medical Department submitted their plan to Headquarters, Department of the Army. The plan identified the Surgeon General as the Commander of the Regiment and his staff filling the positions of the Regimental Staff. The activation date was suggested for 27 July 1986 to coincide with the founding of the Army Medical Department. On 17 January 1986 the plan was approved by the Chief of Staff. HQDA issued General Order number 24 dated 30 May 1986 establishing the Army Medical Department as the Army Medical Department CORPS effective 27 July 1986. It was quickly noted that the Army Medical Department was already made up of six Corps (2) and to name the Army Medical Department a Corps would add confusion to this new entity. HQDA rectified the situation by issuing General Order 27 on 30 June 1986 which rescinded the establishment of the Army Medical Department Corps and established the Army Medical Department Regiment effective 27 July 1986 and established the home of the Army Medical Department Regiment at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Much thought and planning went into the events surrounding the activation of the Army Medical Department Regiment. There was much excitement and enthusiasm as the activation neared.The first official event marking this historic occasion was an NCO dining-in ceremony attended by approximately 500 noncommissioned officers. On behalf of the noncommissioned officers of the Army Medical Department, CSM Howard R. Harrell, the president of the dining in and Command Sergeant Major of Health Services Command (HSC), presented a saber inscribed with the words “AMEDD Regimental Saber” to LTG Quinn H. Becker, the first commander of the AMEDD Regiment. LTG Becker, in turn, passed the saber to Sergeant Major Daniel J. Bullis, the first Sergeant Major of the Regiment. The saber then became part of the Regimental memorabilia.
The next day a solemn and inspiring event transpired when newly constructed enlisted barracks were memorialized for PFC Richard G. Wilson. PFC Wilson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions, at the cost of his life, during the Korean War. LTG Becker hosted the event which was attended by PFC Wilson’s mother, Alice Wilson, her granddaughter Connie Wilson and Richard Wilson’s brother, Ronald Wilson. LTG Becker unveiled the plaque for PFC Wilson that would be displayed at the barracks. LTG Becker then read PFC Wilson’s moving Medal of Honor citation which illustrated his extraordinary bravery and devotion to his fellow Soldier. (3) Afterward, LTG Becker and Mrs Wilson cut the ribbon dedicating Wilson Hall.
Later, there was an event at the Combat Medic Memorial located at the future site of the Army Medical Department Museum. The Combat Medic Memorial depicts a medic rendering aid to a fallen comrade. LTG Becker and an enlisted Soldier placed a wreath to recognize and pay homage to all the medical personnel throughout our long and proud history who have given their lives so that others may live. A lone bugler played taps at the closing of the ceremony.
That evening, events shifted to the officer’s club, which was selected as the site of the first Regimental Commander’s reception. During this historic event, LTG Becker and MG retired Spurgeon H. Neel, the first commander of HSC, unveiled a plaque dedicating the Sam Houston room as the Army Medical Department Regimental Mess. A small number of the new Regimental Distinctive Insignias (RDI) had been procured by the newly formed Regiment and LTG Becker took this opportunity to present the first of them to MG Tracey E. Strevey Jr., the commander of HSC, MG William P. Winkler Jr., the commander of the Academy of Health Sciences (AHS), CSM Kramer D. Regan, AHS, and CSM Howard R. Harrell, HSC. Among the additional recipients were the Corps Chiefs and the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, MG retired Spurgeon Neel and the Honorary Sergeant Major of the Regiment, CSM retired George A. Pierce. A cake cutting ensued and following tradition, the senior and junior officer present cut the cake. LTG Becker and LT Lindsey Brim used the new Regimental Saber to cut the Regimental cake at this festive occasion.
The morning of the activation was clear and very warm, normal for San Antonio in July. A crowd started gathering early for the historic event. More than 4000 active duty Soldiers, retirees and civilians were in the stands and adjacent viewing areas to see the unfurling of the Regimental colors for the first time. The event truly captured the spirit of the Regiment as the reviewing officer, LTG Quinn H. Becker, was joined on the reviewing stand by MG Julius J. Chosy, Deputy Surgeon General for Mobilization and National Guard Affairs and BG Robert L. Wick Jr., Deputy Surgeon General for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs. After the colors were unfurled, LTG Becker presented MG Neel and CSM Pierce certificates appointing them as the first Honorary Colonel of the Regiment and Honorary Sergeant Major of the Regiment. The ceremony ended with the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Platoon displaying their precision horsemanship. The platoon depicted the mounted cavalry in the years following the Civil War. The demonstration concluded with a cavalry charge to the delight of the spectators.
The festivities concluded at Salado Park with one of the largest picnics ever held on Fort Sam Houston. A combined organization day of over 5000 faculty and students of the Academy of Health Sciences as well as Soldiers and civilians of the Army Health Services Command were in attendance. There were sporting events, musical performers and of course food and merriment.
Today, as it was on that day in 1986, the Regiment stands as the one binding element that unites all members of Army Medicine under one flag. The Regiment includes all AMEDD personnel, whether active duty, Army Reserve, National Guard, or AMEDD civilian employees who elect to affiliate with the Regiment. It includes TOE, and TDA personnel in the continental United States as well as those serving overseas, all sharing the same traditions and history. A history that starts during the War for Independence through the dark days of the Civil War; from the Meuse-Argonne offensive in the Great War to the beaches of Normandy and the Philippine Islands during WW II; enduring the bitter cold of Korea and the sweltering heat of Vietnam; from Grenada and Panama, and the liberation of Kuwait, to the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, members of the Army Medical Department have always persevered in their mission to care for the sick and wounded in order to conserve the fighting strength.
(1) Army Regulation 600-82, The U.S. Army Regimental System 1 May 1986.
(2) Medical Corps, Nurse Corps, Dental Corps, Veterinary Corps, Medical Service Corps, Medical Specialists Corps. The Enlisted Corps and Civilian Corps are not officially recognized as separate corps by the Institute of Heraldry.
(3) The entire citation can be viewed here.