Navy Medicine Activates Research Lab in Ohio
By Larry Coffey, NMSC PAO
WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Naval Medical Research Unit-Dayton (NAMRU-D) became Navy Medicine Support Command’s (NMSC) newest medical research unit when the unit was activated during a ceremony held at NAMRU-D headquarters Oct. 6.
The command activation officially marked the merger of the Navy’s Environmental Health Effects Laboratory (EHEL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) and the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory (NAMRL) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Fla.
The new Navy command, in conjunction with the Air Force 711th Human Performance Wing, will form the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) directed Department of Defense (DOD) Center of Excellence for Aerospace Medicine Research, Training and Education.
Rear Adm. Eleanor Valentin, NMSC commander, was the ceremony keynote speaker. NMSC is based at NAS Jacksonville, Fla., and has oversight of the Navy’s medical research program, including the medical research and development (R&D) commands and detachments located globally.
“Today’s activation of Naval Medical Research Unit-Dayton marks the historic merger of two institutions with rich traditions in Naval Medical Research and Development,” Valentin said. “The merger of these two detachments creates a premier military operational medicine laboratory. NAMRU Dayton will be able to answer a broad range of operationally relevant research questions across a range of warfighting domains, and across the research spectrum – from basic research to advanced technology development, and beyond. ”
Capt. Keith Syring is NAMRU-D’s first commanding officer, and Cmdr. Rita Simmons is the executive officer.
“This is exciting and humbling,” said Syring, an aerospace operational physiologist. “It’s a great opportunity for me to lead our people and be a part of this team.”
Syring reported from the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) in Washington, DC, where he served as Navy Medicine’s Aerospace Physiology Program Manager and Specialty Leader. Simmons reported from the NAMRL where she served as the Officer in Charge.
NAMRU-Dayton will be housed in the existing joint Navy/Air Force EHEL building. The NAMRU-D headquarters will move to the Navy’s new 38,700 square-foot building scheduled to open in March, said Mr. Mike Plante, NMSC facility director. The $16.5 million building will house a custom-built Spatial Disorientation Research Device (DRD) that will be used for a variety of aviation research, including motion sickness and spatial disorientation. The one-of-a-king device will cost $19.5 million and is under development and fabrication as construction continues on the new building.
NAMRL, under various names, has been the Navy flagship laboratory for aerospace medical research for the better part of a century. NAMRL’s roots go back to 1939, when the Navy established an Aviation Medicine research and training unit at Pensacola. The restructuring of Navy Medicine R&D resulted in NAMRL becoming a detachment of Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) in San Diego, and in 2005, Congress directed the realignment of the Laboratory to WPAFB under BRAC.
EHEL has long been the Navy standard-bearer for toxicology research, tracing its history to 1959 when it was established at Bethesda, Md., as the US Navy Toxicology Unit. In 1976, it moved to WPAFB as the Naval Medical Research Institute Toxicology Detachment (NMRI-TD). NMRI-TD was realigned as a detachment under NHRC in 1998 and renamed EHEL in 2004.