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(Enlarge) Col. Michael R. Bell, incoming commander of Public Health Command Region-North, receives the unit's colors from Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, commander of U.S. Army Public Health Command, during a change of command ceremony on Aug. 28 at Club Meade. Bell assumed command from Col. Bradford W. Hildabrand. (Photo by Phil Grout)

From an artillery man to an intelligence officer to a command surgeon in Afghanistan, Col. Michael R. Bell has held a variety of positions during his 27-year Army career.

Bell added another credential on Aug. 28, when he took the reigns of the Public Health Command Region-North. Col. Bradford W. Hildabrand, who commanded the organization for a year, passed the unit's colors to Bell during a change of command ceremony at Club Meade.

"Today we bid a fond farewell to Colonel Brad Hildabrand, who is an outstanding officer and dedicated leader, and we welcome Colonel Mike Bell, a veteran of the Public Health Command team and also an officer of proven ability who will carry forward the critical mission of Public Health Command Region North," said Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, commander of the U.S. Army Public Health Command, who spoke at the ceremony.

PHC-North has the mission of providing regionally focused preventive medicine, veterinary service and health promotion support for the Army in a 20-state area, from Maine to North Carolina and as far west as Wisconsin. The region consists of approximately 500 personnel who serve at three Public Health Command Districts at Fort Belvior, Va., Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Eustis, Va.

Personnel provide support services across public health disciplines including environmental health, engineering, veterinary services, occupation health sciences, health-risk management and laboratory services.

"It's about taking care of America's sons and daughters," Keenan said.

Hildabrand became the first commander of PHC-North in June 2011 when the unit was redesignated from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion & Preventive Medicine-North to PHC-North. The redesignation signified the combining of the USACHPPM-North and the North Atlantic Regional Veterinary Command.

"Brad, you have truly done a phenomenal job in the transitions that we've had to make," Keenan said. "When you think of the posture that you're leaving North Region in, it's just phenomenal. ... We want to thank you for all you've done."

During his remarks, Hildabrand discussed highlights of the unit during his command including the creation of several new programs, and thanked the members of the unit for their work.

Hildabrand's next assignment will be at the Defense Logistics Agency at Fort Belvior.

"It's been fun, but it's time for me to move on," he said. "I hope that I've left this organization in good shape for Colonel Bell and I know that he'll do a great job."

Keenan said that Bell is set up for success and will "continue to do great things" with PHC-North.

Bell previously served as the associate director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine residency program at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

During his 27 years in the military, Bell has served in a number of roles and positions.

After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1985 with a degree in business administration, Bell was commissioned as a second lieutenant of field artillery in the Reserve.

After serving as the assistant logistics officer for the 41st Field Artillery Brigade and the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery in Babenhausen, Germany, Bell transferred to military intelligence. He then served with the 24th Infantry Division and as an intelligence officer with the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Following his deployment from Desert Storm, Bell left active duty to earn a degree in biology from Syracuse University in 1993 and returned to the Army at the USUHS, where he earned his doctorate in medicine in 1997.

Bell has since served in academic and medical roles at Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Myer, Va.; Aberdeen Proving Ground; Kabul; and Washington, D.C. He also has a faculty appointment as an assistant professor of preventive medicine and biometrics at USUHS.

During his brief remarks, Bell spoke about the history and past successes of PHC-North including detecting West Nile virus in the United States and being the first to deploy to the Pentagon after 9/11 to assess health concerns.

"This is a fantastic unit," he said. "It's a tremendous honor for me to be selected to command this unit."

Bell said that with such future challenges as a lack of resources during a time of transition in the Public Health Command, there will be a greater need for preventive medicine.

"My charge to the leadership, Soldiers and technical staff of this unit is to come into work every day focused on improving the health of Soldiers and their families and the readiness of the force; everything else will fall into place," he said.

"We'll continue to do great things and lead the way for the Public Health Command. Let's get to work."

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