By Scott Prater | MOUNTAINEER STAFF
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Soldiers with the 627th Hospital Center bid farewell to their commander at Founders Field Oct. 31, 2022. Usually, a farewell process is followed by the welcoming of a new commander, but due to a unique set of circumstances, the 627th’s newest official commander won’t arrive until 2023.
Including a parade of units, the 4th Infantry Division band, and the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard, the relinquishment-of-command ceremony hardly felt incomplete, however.
Following the traditional bugle calls and unit colors passing, Col. Tracy Michael, commander 1st Medical Brigade, and the ceremony’s presiding official, summarized Col. Matthew N. Fandre’s time as the 627th HC’s leader with deep admiration and praise.
“Currently, the 10th Field Hospital (a sub unit of the 627th) is providing role-three care in the U.S. Central Command area of operations,” Michael said. “Fandre built a cohesive team and ensured that the temporary field hospital was trained and ready. They are performing superbly as we speak.”
Michael noted that the 23rd Preventive Medicine Detachment just recently returned from a nine-month deployment at CENTCOM, while the 438th Veterinary Services Detachment has provided support to four different geographical combatant commands during Fandre’s tenure as commander. In addition, Fandre performed as the senior medical officer for Operations Allies Refuge and Allies Welcome at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, providing medical care advice and assistance to the task force commander for over 13,000 Afghan guests at seven hospital centers. Meanwhile, the 627th also sent a COVID-19 augmentation team to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which provided essential medical support to an overwhelmed medical system during the height of the pandemic.
“The 627th has excelled under his inspired leadership,” Michael said. “The true tensile strength of a leader is not measured in times of prosperity and ease, but during those times of adversity, when their leadership is urgent for the mission. I know that it’s a bittersweet day for the Spartan medic team, but (Fandre) should be encouraged, knowing that he has served them during one of the most challenging and unsettling times in our nation’s history. His calm, caring and compassionate leadership helped steady this team to do what the Army and the nation needed done.”
While the 627th waits for a permanent commander, Col. Steven Knapp, the unit’s chief nurse, will serve as acting commander. His previous assignment was as the readiness and strength branch chief for the Health Services Division, Human Resources Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.
His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, The Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Ribbon, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, among others.
“I know that there is no better-prepared unit,” Michael said. “For whatever missions lie ahead, this team is going to excel at taking care of people and accomplishing the mission. I’m also confident that the silver knight mantra of staying ready so that you don’t have to get ready will continue under Col. Knapp.”
During his parting words, Fandre noted that the 627th HC is one of the largest and busiest hospital centers in the Army and includes more than 170 officers and Soldiers that provide the full range of medical support operations to warfighters, both deployed and in garrison.
“When I took command, I asked you to master the fundamentals, to be more ready and to build a team,” he said to the unit’s Soldiers. “All of you have done this. We also set out to establish a culture and a climate of excellence and trust, founded in respect and dignity. We made all of those investments and they continue to pay dividends, evidenced by all of your successes.”