An Army headquarters that for several years managed 11 military hospitals in western states officially closed Friday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord when it was folded in to a new Hawaii-based command.
The change does not mean much for the roughly 100,000 people who receive care at Madigan Army Medical Center every year. They’ll continue seeing doctors at Madigan and its community clinics in Olympia and Puyallup.
But it strips from JBLM a headquarters that was led by a major general, in the interest of realigning Army medical resources with the military’s post-Iraq War downsizing. The Army has cut spots for about 80,000 active-duty soldiers from its Iraq War peak of 570,000 and plans to reduce the force by another 40,000 soldiers.
The territory that belonged to JBLM’s Western Regional Medical Command has been divided between the Hawaii medical command and another headquarters in Texas that took over Army hospitals in the Midwest and in the Rockies.
Madigan now falls under Army Regional Health Command-Pacific, as do Army hospitals in Alaska and in California.
The new structure allows the Pacific medical commander to focus on supporting Army operations from India to South Korea, preparing for humanitarian disasters as well military engagements. That’s been a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s “Pacific pivot” after most troops left Iraq and Afghanistan.
A deputy Pacific medical commander at JBLM, Col. Ronald Stephens, will manage Army hospitals with a goal of keeping soldiers ready for deployments.
About 60 jobs that were based at JBLM’s Western Regional Medical Command moved to Hawaii as part of the realignment.
“Even though we may be separated by the Pacific, we have a deep appreciation for the mission at JBLM,” Pacific Health Commander Brig. Gen. Patrick Sargent said. “I’m excited to take this journey with you.”