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Fort Bragg’s 44th Medical Brigade welcomes its first Army nurse commander

Col. James Burk, incoming commander of the 44th Medical Brigade, addresses the distinguished guests and visitors during the 44th Medical Brigade change of command at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 10, 2020. Burk made history by becoming the first Army nurse to take command of the 44th Medical Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. ShaTyra Reed, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The 44th Medical Brigade said goodbye to one commander and welcomed another during a change of command ceremony July 10 on Fort Bragg.

Col. Kimberlee Aiello relinquished the command to Col. James Burk.

“We will continue to prepare to fight tonight,” Burk told the brigade’s soldiers. “My commitment to you is that I will provide my absolute best, and your best will be expected as well, which will be the standard of this brigade. The brigade already has a winning mindset, but when we take the field we will win and we will win as a team.”

Burk is the first Army nurse to lead the command, said Maj. Gen. James Kraft, deputy commander for the 18th Airborne Corps and the ceremony’s reviewing officer.

Burk arrives from the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, Fort George G. Meade and Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center at Fort Meade, Maryland, where he was recently involved in coronavirus response and testing efforts.

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He is no stranger to Fort Bragg, previously serving as the medical operations officer for the 261st Area Support Medical Battalion in 2003, when it was one of the first units deployed to Iraq and later becoming its commander, when soldiers deployed in support of Ebola virus relief, Kraft said.

He also previously served as head nurse for Womack Army Medical Center, between 2006 to 2009, and commanded the 261st Multifunctional Medical Battalion at Fort Bragg, from 2014 to 2016.

“Col. Burk understands the tempo and expectations that comes with this Corps of ours and embraces that possibility and above else is a selfless leader that places the mission and those that make it happen first and foremost,” Kraft said.

Aiello, who has commanded the brigade since July 2018, will remain at Fort Bragg with her next assignment to serve under the 18th Airborne Corps.

During her time as commander of the 44th Medical Brigade, she’s led troops during hurricane responses, the national emergency declaration at the southwest border and helped oversee a support company and surgical team that deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division earlier this year to the Middle East.

Most recently Aiello helped lead military units in the fight against the coronavirus, Kraft said.

The brigade rapidly deployed at the end of March and was headquartered at the Javits Convention Center in New York City overseeing 5,000 soldiers, sailor and airmen in five different states to help treat more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients, he said.

“Kim managed to lead with precision, dogged determination and an energy and vision needed to keep this fast moving train on its tracks heading to many, many marginal objectives where good enough certainly wouldn’t cut it,” Kraft said.

Aiello credited the soldiers with helping turn the Javits Medical Center in New York into a COVID-19 facility.

“It wasn’t about rank and it wasn’t about position,” she said. “It was about caring and taking care of our civilian patients, their moms, dads, parents, brothers and sisters.”

Aiello thanked command teams, staffs, soldiers families and her own family and the soldiers for their support.

She provided examples of soldiers who she said helped with the brigade’s accomplishments, including: a staff sergeant who remained deployed when his daughter graduated from college and commissioned as a second lieutenant; a major who coordinated transporting 18 COVID-19 patients and the staff who provided their care; a sergeant who’s coordinated with churches and nonprofits to help the homeless population; and a major who helped establish a military training agreement with an urgent care veterinarian clinic in Fayetteville.

“Our ‘dragon medics’ are individuals who come together in difficult times when no mission was ever too hard,” she said, repeating the brigade’s nickname. “They never focused on self. They always focused on others, especially the war fighter who’s been entrusted to their care.”

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© 2020 The Fayetteville Observer