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U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, from left to right, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, Col. Eric Sones and Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho inspect the troops during a command relinquishment ceremony at the Europe Regional Medical Command Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, from left to right, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, Col. Eric Sones and Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho inspect the troops during a command relinquishment ceremony at the Europe Regional Medical Command Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, from left to right, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, Col. Eric Sones and Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho inspect the troops during a command relinquishment ceremony at the Europe Regional Medical Command Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, from left to right, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, Col. Eric Sones and Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho inspect the troops during a command relinquishment ceremony at the Europe Regional Medical Command Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Col. Thomas Slade salutes the official party as they inspect the troops during a command relinquishment ceremony at the Europe Regional Medical Command Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. Thomas Slade salutes the official party as they inspect the troops during a command relinquishment ceremony at the Europe Regional Medical Command Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, front left, prepares to assume temporary command of Europe Regional Medical Command from Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, middle, as Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General, presides as the reviewing officer at a ceremony Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, front left, prepares to assume temporary command of Europe Regional Medical Command from Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, middle, as Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General, presides as the reviewing officer at a ceremony Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, left, takes the guidon from Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General, as he assumes temporary commnad of the Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, left, takes the guidon from Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General, as he assumes temporary commnad of the Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command, speaks at a command relinquishment ceremony at Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command, speaks at a command relinquishment ceremony at Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
The multi-service color guard performs at a command relinquishment ceremony at Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
The multi-service color guard performs at a command relinquishment ceremony at Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, speaks during a ceremony at which he relinquished command of Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, speaks during a ceremony at which he relinquished command of Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, speaks during a ceremony at which he relinquished command of Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, speaks during a ceremony at which he relinquished command of Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, interim commander Europe Regional Medical Command, stands in front of his troops during a ceremony at which he took charge on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, interim commander Europe Regional Medical Command, stands in front of his troops during a ceremony at which he took charge on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
Attendees at a Europe Regional Medical Command relinquishment of commnad ceremony at Sembach Kaserne, Germany, sing the Armed Forces Medley at the conclusion of the ceremony Tuesday, July 30, 2013.
Attendees at a Europe Regional Medical Command relinquishment of commnad ceremony at Sembach Kaserne, Germany, sing the Armed Forces Medley at the conclusion of the ceremony Tuesday, July 30, 2013. ()
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command, hugs Sue Clark, the wife of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, who relinquished command of the Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command, hugs Sue Clark, the wife of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, who relinquished command of the Europe Regional Medical Command on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, interim commander, Europe Regional Medical Command, looks toward the crowd at the end of the ceremony in which he took charge on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
U.S. Army Col. John P. Collins, interim commander, Europe Regional Medical Command, looks toward the crowd at the end of the ceremony in which he took charge on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()
The multi-service color guard walks off the parade field at the end of a relinquishment of command ceremony for the Army's top medical post in Europe on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
The multi-service color guard walks off the parade field at the end of a relinquishment of command ceremony for the Army's top medical post in Europe on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Sembach Kaserne, Germany. ()

SEMBACH, Germany — There is a new man in the Army’s top medical job in Europe, but it’s not the guy who was expected to be there.

Instead of Brig. Gen. John M. Cho, whose appointment to the position was announced last month, Col. John P. Collins assumed command Tuesday of Europe Regional Medical Command, filling an unexpected opening created by maneuvering in Washington.

The U.S. military services are in the midst of combining various aspects of Army, Air Force and Navy medicine, said Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army surgeon general and reviewing officer for what was to have been a change-of-command ceremony.

A couple of weeks before the ceremony, though, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “approved several joint general officer positions” in the new joint-service medical organization – the Defense Health Agency, Horoho said. That caused her to delay moving a handful of senior medical officers who may be nominated to fill the new positions.

Cho may still take the top job at ERMC, she said, but it’s not guaranteed.

“I’m committed to a general coming to Europe,” Horoho said.

In the meantime, Collins, who spent the last two years as ERMC’s chief of staff, will stand in as interim commander, a position he’s expected to hold for anywhere from three to six months.

“It was about a week ago or so that General Clark informed me that he’d be handing the flag to me today,” Collins said in a speech after taking the flag from his former boss, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark.

Clark had broken the news to him as he walked from a base coffee shop to a morning meeting, he said.

It was kind of a surprise, Collins said in an interview afterward, “but all of us senior leaders always have to be kind of willing to step up.”

Having had a hand in setting the organization’s priorities and course during the last two years as Clark’s chief of staff, he said he feels comfortable taking the job.

“It’s all good,” he said.

Still, military medicine in Europe is wrestling with a handful of issues that appear largely outside its control, including delayed work on a new hospital to replace the aging Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and fiscal austerity measures that largely affect civilian employees.

Collins said he’s going to make it a priority to share accurate information with the civilian staff so that if they decide to quit, “they’re leaving for a valid reason and not because of rumor.”

Horoho said funding for the new hospital is approved and “the design piece is actually on track,” but the military was still waiting on feedback from the local German community that could determine whether site preparation work for the new hospital will begin this fall.

Millham.matthew@stripes.com Twitter: @mattmillham

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