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NEWS | Oct. 17, 2023

Army Reserve Col. Rodney Sanders takes command of Western Medical Area Readiness Support Group

By Lt. Col. William Geddes Army Reserve Medical Command

Col. Renn Polk relinquished duties as the commander of the Western Medical Area Readiness Support Group (WEMARSG) to Col. Rodney Sanders during a change of command ceremony Sept. 23 at the Madigan Medical Center Letterman Auditorium here.

Change of command ceremonies are a military tradition that represent a transfer of authority and responsibility for units or commands. The history, tradition, and accomplishments of the command are embodied in the colors. The passing of colors from an outgoing commander to an incoming commander ensures that the unit and its Soldiers are never without official leadership, represents a continuation of trust, and signifies an allegiance of Soldiers to their unit's commander.

Maj. Gen. W. Scott Lynn, Army Reserve Medical Command commanding general, presided over the ceremony, accepting the Colors from Polk as she relinquished command and handing them to Sanders, symbolizing the transferring of authority.

Polk said Soldier interaction was the primary thing she would miss from this command.

“Getting out to see all of the Soldiers and being actively engaged in their training, and meeting with the command teams in their home units,” said Polk of her time as WEMARSG commander. “That battlefield circulation and not being tied to an office really gave me a chance to connect. I loved being present and being there with the Soldiers.”

Lynn thanked Polk for her performance as WEMARSG commander, and pointed out that historically ARMEDCOM has operated as a Table of Distribution and Allowances division, while the other two medical divisions in the Army Reserve, the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) and the 3rd MCDS, have operated as Table of Organization and Equipment divisions. One of the major differences is that the TO&E divisions have equipment and go to the field and train, while the TDA division usually has not.

“That’s going to change, and here’s why,” said Lynn. “As the mission set gets bigger, there’s a need for us to partner with the TO&E units as we go and do missions.”
Lynn said the change was necessary in order to integrate ARMEDCOM units with 807th and 3rd MCDS units when those TO&E units are mobilized and need to be augmented by ARMEDCOM units to get to the strength necessary to mobilize.

Rather than serve as donor units that are cannibalized for Soldiers to fill the mobilizing units, the TDA units will function as units and partner with and mobilize with the TO&E unit.

“We actually need to function as units, we need to go back to a more doctrinal way of doing this,” Lynn said. “If there is a mission that a TO&E unit is given, we will take one of our TDA units like a (medical operations readiness unit) and say, ‘You are going to partner with this unit to do this mission.’ That partnership needs to take effect from the point of mission planning, integration of the staff processes, actually integrating the units before it is time to go do the mission.”

One of the benefits of this process is it gives the TDA units a mission to train to, the general said.

Sanders acknowledged the changes, indicating that one of his main focuses as WEMARSG commander will be on ensuring his Soldiers were trained and ready, relating that focus to an experience he had as a young man, around 13 years old, with his father. His dad, who was a pilot, had been teaching him how to fly and after a morning of touch-and-go’s, he pulled the plane over to fuel up, tossed the keys to the plane on the seat and left.

Sanders said he sat there for several minutes before his uncle came out and asked him why he thought his dad had tossed the keys in the seat. Realizing this was to be his first solo flight, he was understandably nervous, but realized his father knew he was ready, and that gave him confidence to complete that first solo flight.

The colonel added his top priority is ensuring Soldiers are trained and ready to support the Army medically if called upon.

“I will ensure that Western MARSG Soldiers have that training, so they have the same sense of confidence I had on my first solo flight."