The twenty-first of July marked the day of Change of Command at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) from Colonel Kent E. Kester to Colonel Ralph L. Erickson.
The Behnke Auditorium and two conference rooms were overflowing with attendees, civilian and military, such as WRAIR staff, Institute alumni, and partners in the mission of the WRAIR. It was a noticeable improvement to host the ceremony inside versus the extreme heat in Silver Spring, Maryland in late July.
The ceremony began with an invocation, the presentation of the Colors, the honors to the Nation and then the passing of the Colors to signify the Change of Command. Major General James K. Gilman, commander of the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC), as presiding official, recognized the musical accompaniment of a brass quintet from the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band "Pershing's Own" from Fort Myer, Virginia and the singing of the National Anthem by Mr. William Ward, from WRAIR's U.S. Army Research Unit – Kenya. MG Gilman then highlighted the extensive and remarkable careers which led both Colonel Kester and Colonel Erickson to the WRAIR in various positions of leadership.
Colonel Kester has been a malaria vaccine researcher with an international reputation and many peer-reviewed publications. He currently serves as the Consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General in Medical Research and Development. He was recently appointed to the FDA's Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics and is board certified in internal medicine and in infectious diseases and a Fellow in the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Disease Society of America. Colonel Kester played a pivotal role in the development of the RTS,S malaria vaccine currently in clinical trials. COL Kester had been the Commander of the WRAIR since 2008. His next assignment will begin in September at the Uniformed Services University of Health Services (USUHS) to share his wealth of knowledge in infectious disease research as the first Associate Dean for Clinical Research in the School of Medicine.
Colonel Erickson was most recently the US CENTCOM Surgeon. His assignments have been varied in the areas of operational medicine, teaching, research and specifically in preventive medicine and public health. His experiences with the WRAIR began with the General Preventive Medicine Residency. He is a Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Public Health (Epidemiology) and a distinguished graduate of the National War College.He has deployed overseas in Operations Ernest Will, Desert Shield and Provide Comfort. He also served as Science Director at the WRAIR before becoming the Director of the DoD-Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (GEIS).
The ceremony was brought to a close with the Army Song and reception to informally say hello to Colonel Erickson and goodbye to Colonel Kester. The WRAIR looks forward to Colonel Erickson's leadership and a continued strong and valued partnership with Colonel Kent Kester.