USAMRIID Change of Command

Col. E. Darrin Cox accepts the USAMRIID unit banner from Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb at a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday morning in which Cox took over for the outgoing commander, Col. Gary Wheeler, at Fort Detrick.

Col. E. Darrin Cox accepted a maroon-colored flag from Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, signifying the start of his tenure as commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Cox is one of the new faces at Fort Detrick, and his change-of-command ceremony came a day before Holcomb’s. She will retire as commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick. Other naval and Army units on the post, including the garrison, also recently changed commanders.

While Cox is new to Fort Detrick and the Frederick area, he is not new to the state.

Cox grew up in Texas and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington University in 1989. Although he always loved medicine, he followed his father’s advice and first pursued a career as a certified public accountant, Holcomb said in her remarks.

Cox was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1992 through the Health Professions Scholarship Program and completed residency in general surgery and thoracic surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to information from USAMRIID.

He wanted to be a pediatrician, Holcomb said in her remarks. When she jokingly asked why that changed, Cox shouted from his seat that he had kids.

Cox and his family spent several years in Maryland while he was at Walter Reed, he said after the ceremony.

“I was excited to return to Maryland,” Cox said.

He plans to build upon his predecessor’s accomplishments and continue to protect the military and nation through advancements in vaccines and treatments. He also looks forward to overseeing the continued construction of the USAMRIID building on the military installation, a project started under Col. Gary Wheeler, the outgoing commander.

USAMRIID is a unique Army unit because of its medically focused mission. It also has a biosafety level 4 laboratory where dangerous contaminants, such as strains of Ebola, are studied.

“USAMRIID is a strategic gem in the nation’s defense,” Cox said.

Outgoing commander Wheeler spent 33 years in the Army. He will stay at Detrick, serving in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command until his retirement in January.

Like Cox, Wheeler said USAMRIID is unique due to its vast capabilities and its ability to support and defend soldiers.

“USAMRIID is such a wonderful organization,” he said.

He’s proud of his accomplishments overseeing work on a new third-generation smallpox vaccine and Ebola treatments and vaccinations.

Wheeler said he talked with Cox for several hours about the advice he has for the new commander. His most important piece of advice is to take care of the people.

The scientists, the soldiers and other USAMRIID professionals all serve the unit’s mission, he said.

The people will also be what he misses most.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter:

@HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

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