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NEWS | Nov. 8, 2021

California-based Army Reserve medical brigade gains new commander

By Master Sgt. Alexandra Hays Army Reserve Medical Command

Leadership of the Western Medical Area Readiness Support Group, headquartered in Dublin, California, changed hands between outgoing commander, Col. James Cummings, and incoming commander, Col. Renn Polk in a ceremony here Oct. 23, 2021.

Western MARSG is responsible for providing command and control for more than 2,200 Soldiers assigned to medical backfill battalions, medical support units, troop medical clinics, blood detachments and veterinary detachments located throughout the Western United States to include California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, and Washington.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. McCarter, deputy commanding general of Army Reserve Medical Command, presided over the ceremony. McCarter said of Cummings, “We look forward to your continued leadership in different ways in the future.”

One of the highlights of Cummings’ tenure was answering the call to mobilize Reserve Soldiers rapidly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Cummings explained Western MARSG mobilized 85 Soldiers in 72 hours to support an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force at the request of Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense.

“We made history,” Cummings said, who resides in Sherwood, Arkansas. “I expect going forward, we'll continue to make history.”

“It has been a really great learning experience – a really great opportunity—humbling,” said Cummings, who is also a veterinarian and a professor of anatomy and physiology in his civilian capacity. “I do appreciate everyone in the brigade who has been behind me for the last two years. We take care of our Soldiers; our Soldiers take care of us; and we take care of the mission.”

The ceremony took place in front of a socially distanced and masked audience in coordination with current COVID-19 policies.

Change of command ceremonies are a time-honored military tradition that represent a transfer of authority and responsibility from one commander to another. The passing of colors, or unit guidon, from an outgoing commander to an incoming commander, represents a continuation of trust and signifies an allegiance of Soldiers to their unit's commander.

“It is clear that you've done a great job here and you will be missed,” Polk said to Cummings as she made comments at the ceremony.

Polk, who resides in Seattle, is also a psychiatric nurse practitioner in her civilian capacity, and recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East where she served as the commander of an operational stress control detachment.

“Moving forward together we will ensure that our Soldiers, Civilians, and Families are well-supported, resilient, cared for, and ready,” Polk said.

She explained her mindset is to leave people and organizations better than how she found them.

“It is my honor, and it is now my duty to serve you as your commander,” Polk said.

Western MARSG directly enables Army Reserve Medical Command’s mission to provide combat ready professional medical Soldiers for the Army and Joint services that are trained and equipped to preserve the fighting strength of our Nation’s servicemembers.