Evans Army Community Hospital welcomed its new boss to Colorado Springs on Tuesday during a change-of-command ceremony at Fort Carson's Founder's Field.
Col. Eric Edwards accepted his new charge as the unit's previous leader, Col. Patrick Garman, stepped aside.
Edwards delivered a short speech to a formation of soldiers that included the men and women that staff Evans Hospital, the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard and a salute battery of artillery from 4th Infantry Division.
"There is no greater honor or awesome responsibility than caring for the men and women who protect our nation," Edwards said, addressing his soldiers for the first time. "Medics. As you've heard before, if we don't get this right, nothing else matters."
Edwards commanded the Army hospital at Fort Jackson in South Carolina before taking over Evans. He enlisted in the Army in 1990 and commissioned in 1992 as a Medical Service Corps officer.
Edwards has only been in Colorado once throughout his Army career.
"The last time I was here was far from the green here on the parade field, but rather as 2nd Lt. Edwards enjoying Piñon Canyon. This is a nice change," he said.
Now he will run the hospital and manage the 2,300 military troops and civilians that keep it going.
Evans is the central piece to the Colorado Springs Military Health System. The hospital has 92 beds and serves a population of 70,000.
A typical day at the hospital sees 3,500 outpatient visits, 137 emergency room patients, six births, 21 operating room cases and 3,300 prescriptions filled, the Army said.
Edwards called the unit a "well-oiled machine," thanking Col. Garman for turning over a command that made Evans one of the best hospitals in the country.
"For the medical formations here at Fort Carson, there has always been change and perhaps the most significant in several years is fast approaching," Edwards said.
He talked about new Defense Health Agency directives, training to support units in combat and preparing to provide medical care in remote regions of the world.
But change will not distract, he said.
"The readiness of those we serve, and self-readiness is our priority," Edwards said.
"We will achieve balance and never shy away from taking the hard road when it is the right thing to do."