JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
A new commanding officer took command of Navy Medical Research Unit San Antonio during a Change of Command Ceremony held at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre Aug. 4.
During the ceremony, Capt. Gerald DeLong, Medical Service Corps, relinquished command to Capt. Jennifer Buechel, Nurse Corps.
Commanding NAMRU San Antonio since May 2021, DeLong took command during the COVID-19 pandemic with limited and or suspended research projects with less than 50 percent facilities occupancy for unit personnel. DeLong led the command out of the pandemic and into full operations while regaining the confidence of research sponsors.
Capt. William Deniston, MSC, commander, Naval Medical Research Command presided over the ceremony and Capt. Robert Hawkins, director, J3/5/7, Defense Health Agency and director, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, served as the guest speaker.
“I have had the privilege of receiving multiple tours of NAMRU San Antonio over my career, not just since I’ve been the commander of NMRC, but several times over the past two decades,” Deniston said. “The amazing work conducted here never ceases to amaze me.”
According to Deniston, today is not only a Change of Command but also the celebration of the incredible work of the NAMRU San Antonio staff under the leadership of DeLong.
Remarking on his tenure as commanding officer, DeLong spoke on the uniqueness of the command and its personnel.
“Our diverse makeup includes military, civilian, and contractors,” DeLong said. “Although we are organized in separate directorates…their expertise often spans many of our research and business lines, and that gives NAMRU San Antonio a deep bench to answer many complex and integrated research questions.”
According to Delong, there are consistencies that can be found among all NAMRU San Antonio’s mission accomplishments which are resilience, teamwork and spirit of the NAMRU San Antonio crew.
“Whether the challenges are minor or major, we find our way to accomplish the mission,” DeLong said. “Teamwork and resilience come easier because of the spirit of our individuals and the collective group spirit to care for each other that is resident at this command.”
Directing his remarks to Buechel, DeLong stated, “You will be leading the command at a very exciting time with many new potential research projects visible on the horizon or just over it. The command will benefit greatly from your passion for research, relationships already established with research leaders, and prior leadership experience with a medical research command.”
Buechel, who previously served as the executive officer of Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory in Groton, Connecticut, said it was a great honor to serve as the new commanding officer.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead such dedicated professionals, and I am excited to embark upon this journey as we continue our mission of advancing medical research and innovation for the benefit of our nation’s warfighters.”
Buechel stated to achieve innovation, the command must focus on three guiding principles: people, mission, and culture.
“As we embark on this journey together, I have the utmost confidence in the collective talent, dedication, and resilience of our unit,” said Buechel. “I am inspired by the extraordinary work I have witnessed thus far, and I am honored and privileged to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading NAMRU San Antonio.”
NAMRU San Antonio’s mission is to conduct gap-driven combat casualty care, craniofacial, and directed energy research to improve survival, operational readiness, and safety of Department of Defense (DoD) personnel engaged in routine and expeditionary operations.
It is one of the leading research and development laboratories for the U.S. Navy under the DoD and is one of eight subordinate research commands in the global network of laboratories operating under NMRC in Silver Spring, Md.