Short term and long term changes to Fort Drum's medical care are on the way. The post welcomed a new MEDDAC Commander on Wednesday. His arrival comes at a time when soldiers are facing limited access to the medical clinic because of the Army's civilian furlough period. Our Brian Dwyer introduces us to the new commander and has more on his plans to overcome these early obstacles.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The orders, the marching, the music, and the official hand off at Fort Drum are truly a sight to see.
Outgoing Fort Drum MEDDAC Commander Colonel Mark Thompson gave way to Colonel Matthew Mattner. With a total of 25 years of experience in the medical field, he will now lead Drum's medical staff and Guthrie Clinic for the next two years.
"I had a lot of options, but I wanted to come take care of soldiers who are doing our nation's work in Afghanistan," said Mattner.
"I sincerely thank all the members of this command for doing what is necessary so that we can do the impossible for our patients," Thompson added.
Thompson is leaving Drum at a time when the medical field is hurting on posts everywhere. Over the next ten weeks, the civilian furloughs shorten the work week by one day for employees. The Guthrie Medical Clinic, even though it will keep the same hours, will have to reduce what it can offer soldiers.
It's a big challenge, but Mattner said it will not be impossible thanks to the help of the community.
"We've got a great support network here with our local health care providers. What we can't provide on-base, we still have tricare and the opportunity to use off-post," said Mattner.
Drum is one of the few installations without an actual hospital, which means teamwork is not a new concept. Mattner believes that is the reason other posts around the country will be taking a cue from Fort Drum, once they are faced with budget cuts.
Mattner said although the Army's presence in Afghanistan is winding down, he still expects to focus a great deal of effort on behavioral health and wounded warriors.