Dec. 17, 2007

New commander takes over 192nd Medical Group

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Thomas E. Koertge took command of the 192nd Medical Group during a ceremony Dec. 9 at Langley Air Force Base. (Photo by Master Sgt. Carlos Claudio, Virginia Air Guard Publc Affairs)

By Lt. Col. Debbie Magaldi
Virginia Air Guard Public Affairs

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. In the midst of conducting physicals, giving vaccines and getting the 192nd Medical Group's functional areas up and running at Langley Air Force Base, medical group personnel, family members and distinguished guests took time out on Dec. 9 for a change of command. During a ceremony officiated by 192nd Fighter Wing commander Col. Jay Pearsall, Col. (Dr.) Gregory J. Biernacki turned over command of the 192nd Medical Group to his successor, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Thomas E. Koertge.

After passing the guidon, Biernacki took a few minutes to reminisce on his two stints as 192nd Med. Group commander and his military career as a flight surgeon that had come full circle with his return to Langley Air Force Base.

"I have the best job in the world," he said as he recalled his days as a flight surgeon for the 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron.

"My cup has runneth over," Biernacki continued. "I've had so many great mentors and colleagues and been given so many incredible opportunities as commander of the Medical Group.... The messier the situation, the more we came together. Many of you shared in those experiences and memories."

He ended by thanking his many friends and colleagues, his family and especially his wife, Pamela.

"You are the tip of the spear and that is why each of you are here today," he said, looking across the hanger.

Biernacki will be serving in Iraq for the next four months. Upon his return, he will resume his duties as the Air Surgeon assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters-Air Component for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Koertge joined the 192nd Medical Group in 2000. He is a professor of periodontics and microbiology and immunology and vice chair of the Department of Periodontics at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. He took to the podium saying what an honor and privilege it was to be taking command of the 192nd Medical Group, and how very rewarding it has been for him to serve his country through the National Guard.

Col. Jay Pearsall, 192nd Fighter Wing commander (left), hands the 192nd Medical Group guidon to Lt. Col. (Dr.) Thomas E. Koertge (center) while Col. (Dr.) Gregory J. Biernacki (right), the previous commander, looks on. (Photo by Master Sgt. Carlos Claudio, Virginia Air Guard Publc Affairs)

Koertge acknowledged the many people that prepared him for his new assignment: especially his parents; Dr. Jim Rubis, who made him aware of the opportunities in the Air Guard; the support of his first Officer in Charge, Dr. Westbrook; his civilian employer Harvey Schenkein; and his wife Linda and their children.

"Col. Biernacki, your leadership and the accomplishments of the 192nd Medical Group have set the standard that I hope to follow. Thank you for building the Medical Group into a model Air National Guard and Air Force organization, demonstrating how to train and perform multiple missions for both the state and nation....I salute the men and women of the 192nd Medical Group... your outstanding performance and your dedication to the mission and to our country. I look forward to serving with you as we continue the tradition of excellence that you have established."
Since 2000, the 192nd Medical Group has participated in humanitarian assistance missions in Belize and El Salvador, provided medical support during the 192nd Fighter Wing's drug interdiction deployment to Curacao, supported deployments to Southwest Asia, and was activated for a joint relief effort after Hurricane Katrina.

The 192nd Medical Group earned a high rating during its recent Health Services Inspection. And most recently, the unit added to its response capabilities by standing up a National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) team.

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