Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NNS) -- Command of Navy Medicine East and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth changed hands May 7.
Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks relieved Rear Adm. William R. Kiser in a standing-room-only ceremony held in the medical center's auditorium. Many commanding officers from the NME subordinate commands were present, as well as many of Stocks' friends from his Naval Academy class.
For the ceremony, Kiser asked staff members of the medical center who had deployed during his tenure to wear their deployment uniform. Approximately 100 of the 632 who had deployed were in attendance, with many standing among the 50 state flags displayed along the side aisles of the auditorium.
Vice Adm. Adam Robinson Jr., surgeon general of the Navy, and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, was the featured speaker. He recognized the legacies of previous NMCP and NME commanders present, including Rear Adm. Thomas Cullison -now Deputy Surgeon General- and Rear Adm. Matthew Nathan -now Commander, National Naval Medical Center and Navy Medicine National Capital Area.
During his speech, Robinson spoke about what makes a great leader and how Kiser's work while NMCP commander has earned him that title.
"Leadership is an art; you define a leader by how people do," Robinson said. "You have to be good stewards (of property) and keep people in mind. From Admiral Nathan to Admiral Cullison to Admiral Kiser, if you look at the residency programs, if you look at graduate education, if you look at the people, you make sure they accomplish the things they want. They are leaders of the resources we have.
"Adm. Kiser is a wonderful steward and a wonderful mentor," Robinson continued. He characterized Kiser as a consummate leader who motivates people by speaking to their hearts and feelings.
Robinson singled out several of Kiser's accomplishments as commander of the medical center and NME: the impending transition of Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes to the nation's first Federal Health Care Center; the care of the elderly Special Category patients at Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the growth of Graduate Professional Education; anti-terrorism measures "that have been exercised and that work"; and Kiser's advocacy of operational forces around the world.
The surgeon general presented Kiser with the Legion of Merit, which specifically mentioned the 1,967 service members deployed from 15 commands in NME during his 20 months as commander. Kiser also received his own Ensign - an American flag that was flown at Helmand base, Afghanistan, in recognition of Kiser's steadfast support of the 632 medical center staff who deployed there during his tenure.
Robinson also welcomed Stocks to his new role as commander of the medical center and the region.
"He understands the Navy, people, medicine, graduate professional education, the concept of patient- and family-centered care, and will carry on where Admiral Kiser left off," Robinson said.
Kiser commented about how proud he was of the staff during his entire tour, and most recently of the command's immediate response to the emergency mobilization after the Haiti earthquake and the participation of more than 200 staff members in Operation Unified Response.
"It has been the greatest honor of my life thus far to have been counted among your numbers for the past 20 months. And it is with sadness that in a few minutes my tenure here will come to an end. Know that you have had a profound impact on me. That you have made me proud beyond words. Know that I have been humbled by your dedication and excellence," Kiser said.
Kiser then referenced the photos of former commanding officers on display near the Command Suite in Bldg. 1. He said that with the passage of time, each commander fades into obscurity, and that his time as commander will soon be that way.
"And that's exactly as it should be," Kiser said. "So what remains when folks like me come and go? The good that is done in this place, the difference you make in the lives of others, and the comfort you bring to those in trouble - that's what lasts. The lasting ingredient is the heart of the staff, and that heart has been evident for 180 years."
Speaking directly to his successor, Kiser congratulated Stocks on the assignment.
"Congratulations on what will be the best tour in your career. I am confident that you are just the right individual to lead NMC Portsmouth and Navy Medicine East into the future," Kiser said. "All of us here wish you the very best and you can be assured of our support as you assume the leadership of this excellent crew."
After Kiser read his orders and his flag was hauled down and presented to him, Stocks read his orders and his flag was flown. Stocks then addressed the crew for the first time as their commander.
"I am at the same time extremely proud and humbled to assume command of Navy Medicine East and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth - the place where I began my career in Navy Medicine," Stocks said. "It is great to be back home.
"I look forward to our future opportunities that will ensure that we provide the quality health care that is the hallmark of Navy Medicine," he continued, "as we provide for the health of the active duty, their families, and our retirees and their families."
Kiser will become the commandant of the Medical Education and Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston, a new command that will stand up later this month and will consolidate enlisted medical training at one location.
Stocks most recently served as the fleet surgeon for U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk and the Joint Task Force surgeon in Haiti during Operation Unified Response.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.