Col. Bryan Gamble, commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Col. Bryan Gamble, commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

LANDSTUHL, Germany — When Col. W. Bryan Gamble passes the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center guidon on July 3, he’ll be relinquishing command after two years of heading the largest American hospital outside the U.S.

It’s a stint he’ll never forget.

Yes, he’ll remember the achievements he says belongs to his Landstuhl staff such as conducting weekly, patient-care video teleconferences with doctors from downrange and in the States, working alongside the Air Force and Navy at an Army hospital, developing kidney dialysis capabilities at the hospital and pursuing the hospital’s designation by the American College of Surgeons as a Level II trauma center.

But neither will Gamble ever forget the patients, the wounded warriors.

“The thing that sticks with me the most, for example, is when you take the breathing tube out of somebody, their first words are ‘How’s my buddy?’ ” he said. “That sticks with you.”

The hilltop hospital provides a daily reminder of the sacrifices servicemembers make in Iraq and Afghanistan. Buses transporting war wounded arrive throughout each week, and patients are unloaded with the help of Landstuhl staff. It’s a task Gamble — as commander — has quietly performed himself.

“That’s what soldiers do,” he said. “Never leave a fallen comrade. If you’re needed, it doesn’t matter what rank you are or what your position is. Your job is to help do it — be it in the [operating room] or unloading buses. That is truly an important part that people need to experience: to see their faces, to see their spirit, to let them know that you love them and you’re going to give them the best care possible.”

And yes, Gamble will remember the politicians and VIPs who visited on his watch: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; and Cher.

But Gamble will never forget his wife’s words when he found out in 2005 with about a month’s notice that he was wanted at Landstuhl.

“She said, ‘They need you there now. You have us forever. You need to go,’ ” Gamble said. “She knows what the score is, and I thank her for that.”

Gamble commanded Landstuhl with his wife and four sons remaining in the States so one of his sons would not have to attend his fourth high school in four years.

Yes, Gamble will remember the “pride, professionalism and passion” displayed daily by those who work at the hospital.

But Gamble will never forget Landstuhl.

“It’s really hard to think of a job that would be more rewarding, fulfilling, humbling and honorable than this — the daily experiences that you have with the warriors and the staff and how things change minute to minute,” he said. “It’s truly been an honor to serve the staff — soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians — the warriors and the patients from the community.”

Gamble will next serve as command surgeon at Central Command in Tampa, Fla. Col. Brian C. Lein will work as the new commander at Landstuhl.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now