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(Enlarge) Col. Lisa Doumont, commander of the 338th Medical Brigade, passes the 48th Combat Support Hospital's colors to the unit's incoming commander, Col. Thomas A. Johnson Jr., during a change of command ceremony Saturday at McGlachlin Parade Field. The 48th CSH's outgoing commander, Col. Corinne M. Ritter, is retiring at the end of May.

With deployments to Kuwait and Honduras ahead for the 48th Combat Support Hospital, the unit's Soldiers welcomed a new leader Saturday afternoon.

Col. Thomas A. Johnson Jr. took the reigns of the 48th CSH from Col. Corinne M. Ritter during a change of command ceremony on McGlachlin Parade Field. Ritter, who relinquished command after nearly three years, will retire in May from the military with more than three decades of service.

"Today we gather to recognize the work that Corinne Ritter has contributed, to not only the many missions of the 48th CSH, but also to our efforts in getting this solid team equipped, trained and ready," said Col. Lisa Doumont, commander of the 338th Medical Brigade from Chester, Pa. "We also welcome Colonel Tom Johnson and his family to this command position -- a position that few officers will hold in their careers."

The 30-minute ceremony was attended by Soldiers from the unit's seven companies from Fort Meade, Virginia and West Virginia. Headquartered at the Capt. John Smathers Reserve Center, located on Route 175, the 48th CSH consists of more than 900 Soldiers with the mission of providing deployable hospitalization and outpatient services. The 48th CSH has the medical capability of a 248-bed hospital, providing operating rooms, emergency medical triage and treatment facilities, intensive care units, minimal care wards and neuropsychiatry services.

Formed during World War II as the 48th Portable Surgical Hospital, the unit was first assigned to the China-Burma-India Theater in 1943 to provide medical training for Chinese army medical personnel. Shortly after arriving in China, however, the unit split into two elements, with one going with the 2nd Army and the other with the 53rd Army, 35th Division.

During this time, the 48th Portable Surgical Hospital provided surgical treatment to more than 325 combat causalities.

The unit was reactivated during the Korean War, with the mission of receiving and treating all hemorrhagic fever virus cases in the 8th Army and was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer.

After serving in Korea and Japan, the 48th CSH was activated at Fort Meade as the first multicomponent combat support hospital. From 2002 to 2003, the 48th CSH mobilized 119 Soldiers to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The unit is preparing for deployments to Kuwait and Honduras in March 2013.

Ritter took command of the 48th CSH in June 2009. During the change of command ceremony, Doumont praised Ritter as a strategic thinker and a leader who pushed her unit hard but never more than the team could handle.

"Colonel Ritter has done an exceptional job in ensuring every Solider associated with her command was superbly trained, mentally and physically fit, and prepared to meet the demands of our operational environment," Doumont said. "The 48th's success has a great deal to do with Corinne's experience, compassion and forward-thinking leadership."

Ritter called the ceremony "bittersweet," but assured Johnson the unit was ready for his command and the future deployments.

"I leave you a fine unit, and they're going to continue to be trained and ready Soldiers, trained and ready leaders, and a trained and ready organization that can go anywhere in the world and save lives," Ritter said to Johnson during the ceremony.

Johnson previously served as the Army planner for the National Disaster Medical System, a federal and interagency emergency response team.

He began his military career in 1985 in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Rio Grande College in Ohio. Johnson graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in history and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. His assignments took him to the 8th Infantry Division in Mannhiem, Germany; the Bamberg Health Clinic, Germany; and Echo Company, 232nd Medical Battalion at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

In 1999, Johnson entered the Active Guard Reserve Program and was assigned as a training officer to the 4005th U.S. Army Hospital in Houston.

During his remarks at the ceremony, Johnson thanked his wife and three children for their support. He also thanked all the families of the 48th CSH.

"The most important thing here today is the Soldiers out in front of us," he said. "We know these same Soldiers are preparing for two upcoming deployments. In all of this we need to remember we'll take care of the Soldiers and their families."

Editor's note: Visit http://go.usa.gov/yQn for more photos from the change of command ceremony.

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