Fort Drum welcomed a new U.S. Army Dental Activity leader Friday in front of the Capt. John Sayre Marshall Dental Clinic. Col. Michael P. Mahoney relinquished command of Fort Drum DENTAC to Col. Valerie E. Holmes during a warm and windy change of command ceremony.
Mahoney, who took command of DENTAC in July 2011, and his Family are preparing for his new assignment at Fort Carson, Colo.
Reviewing officer for the ceremony was Col. Robert J. Miller Jr., commander of Northern Regional Dental Command, Fort Belvoir, Va.
“Fort Drum DENTAC has kept the (10th Mountain Division) ready for each and every deployment and reset them upon return,” Miller said. “It has also ensured that deploying brigade had trained and able dentists ready to provide support downrange.
“No DENTAC does it better than Fort Drum. Also, no DENTAC supports its warriors with such limited resources and limited personnel as Fort Drum DENTAC has over the past two years,” he continued.
Miller added that he understands the challenges DENTAC has faced, and despite austere conditions, the organization has done a “terrific job.”
“A unit succeeds despite these austere conditions mainly because of great leadership at all levels, and it certainly starts at the top,” he explained.
Mahoney entered this command with a wealth of leadership experience that has helped him understand the big picture and the vision set forth by the surgeon general, Miller noted.
“Oral health affects a person’s overall health. Col. Mahoney understands this and has done an outstanding job,” he said. “Fortunately, as the Army takes away one great leader, it manages to find an outstanding new leader for the Fort Drum Dental Activity.”
While Holmes does not come with the history of command like her predecessor, she has affected dental missions at all levels, Miller explained. Some of her previous assignments as executive officer at U.S. Army Dental Command, Captains Career Course small group leader and as the Dental Specialist Course director at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, have prepared her for her new assignment.
“I believe the greatest experience she brings to this command is her wealth of clinical leadership,” Miller said. “I know firsthand, because she was my (officer in charge) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, several years ago.”
“I welcome you to the Northern Regional Dental Command. I know you are the right leader for Fort Drum, and I look forward to having you on our team,” he added.
Mahoney then stepped to the podium and thanked his friends, Family and colleagues for attending the ceremony. He added that it was “an honor” to pass the torch to Holmes.
“This is a part of the country that I will greatly miss as my Family and I prepare to move on to Fort Carson,” he said, adding that it’s his third assignment to Fort Drum.
Dentists and dental professionals at Fort Drum provide quality care to America’s most valuable assets – the men and women who serve in the Army, Mahoney said.
Mahoney thanked the Army, Northern Regional Dental Command, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum’s U.S. Army Medical Activity leadership for their guidance and support. He also thanked the dental care providers on Fort Drum and in the surrounding communities for their support.
“We could not have consistently get all the Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum ready and out the door without … our civilian counterparts in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties,” Mahoney said.
“I’d like to thank all the Civilians and Soldiers – officers and enlisted – in all of the clinics,” he added. “You’re here where the rubber meets the road – where the real work gets done.”
Mahoney bade a fond farewell to Fort Drum’s Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members.
“You’ve provided this care in the highest traditions of the dental profession in the most efficient manner possible, and in the face of many requirements we must meet,” he said. “(Civilians) are the glue that holds this organization together.
“I say farewell for the third and final time to this wonderful post and the North Country community,” Mahoney continued. “I’ve spent many years of my career here in the North Country, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.”
His emotional final thanks were to his wife, Kathy, and three children.
“I could not have had such a successful command here without their support,” he said.
Mahoney assured Holmes that she is joining a supportive team that will help her succeed in leading the organization.
“Your exemplary record precedes you, so I know you will do a great job as you continue the mission of providing dental support to the service members of this post,” he said. “The Fort Drum DENTAC team eagerly awaits your guidance, and I wish you luck on your future endeavors here.”
Holmes comes to Fort Drum after a short assignment to Germany.
She said she had been waiting to return to Germany and was ecstatic to finally be assigned to Kaiserslautern. After only two months at her assignment, she received a phone call that she should begin preparing for the pre-command course in seven months.
After only nine months in Germany, her new assignment brought her to the North Country. At first, she was apprehensive, she admitted with a laugh.
“I was reassured, patient after patient, and even from total strangers who I have never met, that Fort Drum was the Army’s best kept secret,” Holmes said. “I agree. This is a beautiful place.”
Holmes said she was thankful for the warm reception she has experienced leading up to the change of command ceremony.
“I am so excited to stand before you on this glorious day,” she said. “I never imagined I would become a part of the Fort Drum Family and command the most respected and hardest-working dental activity in the (U.S. Army Dental Command). Just know that I look at my selection as a blessing.”
Fort Drum Soldiers deserve the best, and Holmes said she intends to ensure they receive first-class care. Despite having to adjust to sequestration-related constraints, Holmes said she and the Fort Drum DENTAC will adjust as a team.
“We will work together, work smarter and work to meet our objectives,” she added.
A native of Los Angeles, Holmes earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Winston-Salem State University in 1985. She received a doctorate of dental science degree from Meharry Medical College in 1990.
During her career, Holmes has been assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Monterey, Calif.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. She also served overseas in Heidelberg and Kaiserslautern, Germany, and Iraq.
Her awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Ar-my Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Superior Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Award, Parachutist Badge and the German Proficiency Badge.