NEPMU FIVE Command History
Prior to World War II, medical department personnel from U.S. Navy Ships and shore stations handled their own preventive medicine problems. In 1942, during the initial phase of the Solomons Campaign, it was found that battle casualties due to malaria and other infectious diseases, compared with battle injuries, were the primary cause of manpower loss. To solve this problem, the South Pacific Malaria and Epidemic Control Organization was established, composed of detachments named Malaria and Epidemic Control Units that were sent to “trouble areas” where troops were deployed. The success of this organization was reflected in the low incidence rates of malaria and other communicable diseases in the areas where they were operating.
Following World War II, most of the Malaria and Epidemic Control Units were disbanded; the few that remained were renamed Epidemic Disease Control Units. In 1949, six Navy Epidemic Disease Control Units (EDCU) were established in place of the Epidemiological Units. The mission of the new units was to prevent epidemic disease conditions by providing technical assistance to local commands.
During the Korean War conflict, there was a renewed focus on preventive medicine. The Navy organized two shipboard mobile Fleet Epidemic Disease Control Units, designated as FEDCUs. Their mission was preventive medicine in the forward areas and the study and control of communicable diseases among United Nations forces and POWs. Due to the difficulty of mobilizing the FEDCUs the units transitioned to air-transported teams. Their mission was modified in 1952 to “preventing or controlling health problems of naval importance due to biological, physical, chemical or other causes”. In March 1953, the units were re-designated as U.S. Navy Preventive Medicine Units. In 1957, their mission was again changed to include more specialized and technical services. In 1971, the units became Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Units.
This unit was established on 10 March 1949 as U.S. Navy Epidemic Disease Control Unit No. 5 at Naval Hospital San Diego, but was later re-designated as U.S. Navy Preventive Medicine Unit No. 5.The unit occupied Building 146 of the Naval Hospital until it was moved in 1967 to Building 267, Naval Station San Diego. It was then renamed as Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit No. 5 (NEPMU FIVE) on 11 February 1971. It was relocated into its current facility, Building 3235 in March 1978. In March 1981, the unit was reorganized as an echelon four activity reporting to the Navy Environmental Health Center, now known as the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 1999, a new wing with additional classrooms was added to Building 3235 to accommodate the Consolidated Industrial Hygiene Laboratory (CIHL). In 2007 Navy Standard Organization changes aligned NEPMU FIVE within the Directorate for Public Health, Naval Medical Center San Diego. In 2010 NEPMU FIVE was once again realigned under NMCPHC and continues as a regional asset today.