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Army medical research commander to retire

Army Maj. Gen. James K. Gilman's daily commute might be among the best of anyone who lives in this bustling region.

Gilman, the commanding general at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, needed to travel only about a mile from his home on Fort Detrick to his office, which is also on post.

After about four years, that's about to change. Gilman, who has spent 35 years in the Army, is retiring and will hand over the reins Jan. 11 to Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr.

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Based at Detrick, USAMRMC handles medical research, development, acquisition and medical logistics management for the Army.

As its commander, Gilman oversaw a number of USAMRMC's programs and initiatives, including the movement of medical supplies across the Army's various logistics hubs. During the same time period, USAMRMC extended its Gains in Engineering, Math and Science program for middle schoolers where the command has labs across the country. The program has existed in this region for a few years.

Gilman joined the Army when he was 18 because he wanted money to attend Rose Hulman-Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. He followed that with an M.D. at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He spent about 20 years teaching and practicing medicine in the Army before switching over to the management and administration side. He came to Detrick in 2009 after commanding Brooke Army Medical Center and Great Plains Regional Medical Command in San Antonio.

One point of pride for Gilman is the growth of consortia leading research into areas including regenerative medicine using stem cells as well as traumatic brain injuries. Word-of-mouth between researchers has led to some of the best minds working to help the county's men and women in uniform, Gilman said.

"That couldn't happen without the work of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command," Gilman said. He said he has enjoyed being part of an organization in which some of the country's brightest minds are working on behalf of soldiers who have suffered severe injuries on the battlefield.

Another point of pride included the reintroduction earlier this year of a vaccine for adenovirus, which causes flu-like symptoms. The vaccine, used only by the military, had been given to troops for 25 years, but that ended in 1999 after the military's supply ran out. Its reintroduction meant an 80 percent reduction in training days lost to illness, Gilman said.

That the illness may not be "such a big deal out in the community but in the military, in our trainee population, it's a big deal," Gilman said.

Col. Dallas Hack, director of the Army's Combat Casualty Care Research Program, met Gilman when the two worked on a project about a decade ago to find a treatment for a skin infection caused by sand fly bites called leishmaniasis. The infection was afflicting troops in Iraq, but without a simple treatment, the Army was being forced to evacuate troops to receive care.

Gilman's role was to put some practice guidelines for treatment of the infection in place, Hack said.

"He led the team to bring it together," Hack said.

From leading the team to commanding USAMRMC, Gilman's work has come "full circle," Hack said. Research for a treatment of the infection has continued and led to several treatment options, including some that are now up for Food and Drug Administration approval, Hack said. Before that, much research into the infection had stopped when the Gulf War ended, Hack said.

"Part of his initiative was to push to get the research restarted, which at that point he didn't know that he would become in charge of it," Hack said.

Gilman said he is not sure what his next step will be after the Army. After he gives up his home on Detrick in January, Gilman and his wife, Jeffri, will move to the couple's small residence in Texas, he said.

"I'm not ready to quit yet, but I will play some golf," Gilman said. "Maybe a bit more than I do now."

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