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First to care: Winn has new leader
Outgoing commander Cordts headed to Fort Campbell, Ky.
Winn change command pics 019
Outgoing Winn Army Community Hospital Commander Col. Paul Cordts, Southern Regional Medical Command Commander Maj. Gen. Ted Wong and incoming Winn Commander Col. Ronald Place stand at attention Thursday during a change of command ceremony. - photo by Denise Etheridge

"Medic 6 out," outgoing Winn Army Community Hospital Commander Col. Paul Cordts said as he turned command of the hospital over to incoming commander Col. Ronald Place.

Cordts, a board-certified surgeon, faced a number of serious challenges during his time at Winn, including a hostage-taking and a hazardous-substance scare last year.

In September 2010, three people were held hostage by an armed gunman who walked into Winn’s emergency room demanding mental-health care. Winn personnel managed to talk the former soldier into surrendering and no one was injured in the incident.

The potential hazardous substance, which was found to be shaving powder, temporarily closed down the hospital’s emergency room and Fort Stewart’s post office in October 2010.

The outgoing Winn commander said these incidents resulted in heightened security, including limited access to the hospital, more strident ID checks and "a higher level of force protection."

Cordts also oversaw the March opening of an Army community-based, primary-care clinic in Richmond Hill. Cordts said the new clinic "initiated a culture change" in health care for warriors and their family members.

Maj. Gen. Ted Wong, the commanding general for Southern Regional Medical Command, praised Cordts for "accurate and timely decision-making," for motivating 1,500 hospital employees, providing health care to 58,000 enrolled beneficiaries and for overseeing a $136 million budget. He also lauded Cordts for initiating and improving several community-outreach programs, such as women’s health services and suicide prevention.

Cordts said he also counts among his accomplishments providing soldiers and their families easier access to health care and improving the health and education of Winn employees.

"More than half of Winn’s workforce is civilian," he said.

Cordts added he redistributed staff to focus on outpatient care, thereby reducing the number of hospital admissions.

Cordts said his leaving is "bittersweet," adding that his medical team "invested heart and soul" into patient care. Any unfinished projects will be put into the capable hands of Col. Place and his team, Cordts said.

Cordts will head to Fort Campbell, Ky., to command Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.

Place comes to Fort Stewart from Ireland Army Community Hospital at Fort Knox, Ky.

The incoming Winn commander is board-certified in general and colorectal surgery and has authored nearly 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Place was deployed as a general surgeon with the 250th Forward Surgical Team to Afghanistan from October 2001-April 2002 and later served as chief of surgery at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

"Your team fires on all cylinders," Place told Cordts. The new commander said he was "humbled" to lead Winn, and ended with a promise to fulfill the Army medical command’s motto: "First to care."

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