LeMaster replaces Coots at Regional Health Command Europe
June 24, 2016
SEMBACH KASERNE, Germany — The line to greet Brig. Gen. Norvell V. Coots was dozens deep, despite the oppressive heat inside the Sembach Fitness Center on a muggy Friday afternoon.
Soldiers and their families were waiting to say farewell to Coots, the outgoing commander of Regional Health Command Europe, who was retiring from the Army after two years as the Army’s top medical officer in Europe and heading for a job stateside in civilian medicine.
Off to the side of the gym, another long line was forming, where another familiar face to some in the crowd, Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, was standing. West commanded what was then European Regional Medical Command from 2010 to 2012, when the Army’s medical command in Europe was headquartered in Heidelberg.
Some remembered West and wanted to say hello. Others just wanted to meet and get their photo taken with the highest-ranking female officer to graduate from West Point and the Army’s first black surgeon general.
“It’s really great being back,” West said. “A lot of familiar faces. A lot of people that I worked with here.”
West, who was already in Europe visiting with U.S. military leaders from U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Army Europe, was the reviewing officer for the change-of-command ceremony. She spoke highly of Coots and welcomed the new commander, Col. Dennis P. LeMaster.
LeMaster has held numerous medical assignments around the world, including in Korea, Alaska and previously in Germany. His last stop was commanding Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, Colo. LeMaster is due to pin on his first star early next month.
As commander of Regional Health Command Europe, LeMaster will oversee about 1,850 soldiers, 1,500 U.S. civilians and 400 local nationals. The command’s vast healthcare network includes Landstuhl Regional Medical Center - the largest U.S. military hospital overseas - and dozens of outpatient, dental and veterinary clinics in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Medicine plays a key role in the Army’s readiness, West said.
Later, after she had greeted every last person in line, West told Stars and Stripes that as the Army faces new challenges in Europe it needs to have the resources and medical capabilities to support its soldiers and the other services “who rely on us” for medical care, she said.
“That’s why it’s important for us to always be ready, because you never know what the next challenge or requirement will be for medical,” she said.