30 September 2011
“Topping Out” Ceremony Held for New USAMRIID Building

Photo by Dave Rolls, USAG, VI Following the topping out ceremony, officials were given a personal tour of the new USAMRIID building under construction. (Left to right) Capt. Sumesh Sagar, Maj. Gen. James K. Gilman, Jeff McMaster, Matthew Nawn, and Col. David Anderson
With a fanfare of bagpipe music, Fort Detrick officials celebrated the “topping out” of the new U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases facility Sept. 22. The ceremony is traditionally held to mark the placement of the final piece of steel in the building’s structure.   As Ted Baker, Vice President of Manhattan Construction Company, put it, “The skeleton of the building is finished—now our mission is to breathe life into it.”  Approximately 800 people attended the event, which featured speakers from USAMRIID, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Army Health Facility Planning Agency, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, and the construction team of Manhattan-Torcon Joint Venture. Colonel Stephen Wooldridge, commander of HFPA, called the occasion “a milestone in a journey of excellence” and praised the team’s progress since breaking ground in August 2009. According to Lt. Col. Hugh Darville, deputy commander of the USACE Baltimore District, the building is slated for beneficial occupancy in late November 2014. When complete, it will house the largest concentration of Biosafety Level 3 and BSL 4 laboratory space in the Department of Defense. These containment labs, for which USAMRIID is known, allow the Institute to safely work with highly hazardous pathogens to carry out its research mission. “I have to tell you that it takes USAMRIID a lot longer to develop a vaccine or a drug than it’s going to take you to build this facility,” USAMRIID commander COL John Skvorak told the construction team. “But we certainly couldn’t do our critical research without your commitment to delivering us this new building. Without it, we could not bring our citizens—military and civilians alike—the next generation of medical products to protect us from biological threats.” Noted MG James K. Gilman, USAMRMC commanding general, “USAMRIID is still first and foremost about protecting the warfighter, but given the increase in civilian biodefense research, it’s clear that USAMRIID also plays a critical role in the status of our country’s emergency preparedness. In fact, the Institute has emerged as a cornerstone of the U.S. biodefense strategy.”   USAMRIID is also a key component of the National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick, which includes the Department of the Navy; the Department of Homeland Security; the Department of Health and Human Services; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We believe the close proximity and sharing of resources among these agencies will facilitate collaborative research on biodefense,” Gilman said.  Calling the partnership between Manhattan and Torcon, HFPA, the Corps of Engineers and USAMRIID a great example of teamwork, the General added, “I have high hopes that the spirit of cooperation you’ve established will continue long after the construction is complete.”
Posted by PAO

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