by Sgt. 1st Class Mark Bell
210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
LSA ANACONDA, Iraq – Unlike other transfer of authority ceremonies that happen routinely in Iraq, the mission change between 61st Multi-functional Medical Battalion (Provisional) and the incoming 146th Multi-functional Medical Battalion, was noticeably emotional and a platform for the outgoing commander to never forget a fallen Soldier.
Lt. Col. William Grimes, commander of the Task Force 61, from Fort Hood, Texas took the time to remember a friend, comrade, and fellow medical professional during the ceremony.
While most unit commanders talk about numbers and successes during their ceremony speeches, Grimes said there was only one statistic that mattered to him and his Soldiers standing in formation.
"The only thing that matters to me is the number one," he said. "That's the number of Soldiers I lost during the past year."
Grimes was referring to Staff Sgt. Richard A. Blakley, 34, of Avon, Ind., who was killed on June 6.
Assigned to 738th Area Support Medical Company, based in Monticello, Ind., Blakley was killed as a result of small arms fire while on a dismounted patrol near Al Khalidiyah, Iraq.
Grimes talked about how Blakley was a hero and stood for what is the best in the U.S. Army and medical field.
"I will never forget Staff Sgt. Richard Blakley," he said after a noticeable emotional pause which nearly brought those listening to tears.
"I know everyone else would have done the same as him," Grimes said. "I would have done the exact same thing as him."
With a simple salute to his troops and colors, this chapter of the 61st MMB was written, and the pages turned.
As one chapter's ink is still wet on the pages, a new page for Michigan National Guard's Lt. Col. Darlene McCurdy, from Hillsgrove, Penn., and her medical Soldiers has been opened.
Maj. Gen. Ronald D. Silverman, commanding general of the 3rd Medical Command, said he expects nothing shy of excellence from the 146th MMB.
"Your lineage starts here," he said. "The command and control will be enormous."
Silverman said society puts a high value on the medical society and the military medical professional are no exception.
"As medics, our comrades have a higher appreciation for what we do in our profession," he said. "We do this, because it's the right thing to do. You provide the compassion and a side of humanity God gives all of us.
Silverman said Soldiers of the 146th MMB have a tremendous responsibility to their patients, coalition forces, and themselves.
"You are first and the best," he said in closing.
With a year ahead of them, McCurdy hopes for one thing, the safe return back to their families and loved ones.
"It is my goal that each Soldier returns home with the complete satisfaction that they did their best," she said.
McCurdy hopes her Soldiers will make a difference by improving the lives of fellow Soldiers and coalition forces while successfully accomplishing their mission.
The 146th MMB will spend a year providing agile, flexible, and continuous force health protection to MNC-I Forces, coalition forces, and detainees in the Iraq.
Additionally, the battalion provides dental care and level I and level II health care and ground ambulance support to Echelons Above Divisions units stationed in Iraq.
"We also provide combat medics for the Military Integrated Transitional Training teams and convoy movements throughout Iraq as well as instructors at the school house on Anaconda," she said.
With more than more than 700 soldiers assigned to the battalion, McCurdy said her Soldiers are ready to "Sustain the Fighting Force, by quickly delivering quality healthcare to the force."
"These soldiers are ready to do the mission and I am ready to lead," McCurdy added.