Army Reserve medical unit to deactivate

Closure of 339th Combat Support Hospital in Moon means longer travel for training

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An Army Reserve medical unit in Moon with a history dating to World War I will deactivate in August, forcing some of its 350 Pittsburgh-area members to travel to other states for training.

The 339th Combat Support Hospital, housed since 2001 at the McGarity Army Reserve Center at 99 Soldiers Lane, will formally cease to exist as a military unit on Sept. 15.

Two related detachments that are part of the 339th -- a 40-member surgical unit near Erie and a 140-member outfit in Harrisburg -- also will close. Some of its members will also have to travel to other states for training, although others may transfer to other nearby units.

The deactivation here, part of a nationwide base realignment, isn't unusual in military circles and won't cost any jobs, but it will create some inconvenience for some of those medical personnel who train at the facility.

Medical reservists typically work on "soldier skills" one weekend a month at local reserve centers and spend two weeks a year elsewhere training in medicine and how to set up a military hospital.

Some of the 339th's doctors, nurses, medics, clerical personnnel and administrators, many of whom work at area hospitals, will have to travel to bases in New York, Ohio or Virginia for their weekend training if they want to remain in the reserves, said Carl Smith, civilian administrator for the 339th.

Many of the enlisted personnel will be absorbed by two newly created units -- a combat stress company specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder and a medical supply outfit -- but both of those are smaller organizations than the 339th. The combat stress unit has only 40 members, and the supply unit 115.

Both units will take over the space in the McGarity building, headquarters of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, vacated by the 339th.

"The space will definitely be used by other units," said Mr. Smith.

A special ceremony to deactivate the 339th, called "casing the colors," will be held Aug. 6 with military brass on hand.

At such ceremonies, the outfit's flag is formally placed in a protective sheath after the unit's history is recited.

Rosemary Kuca, commander of the 339th, said the military takes deactivations seriously, and the ceremony is a sober affair. She said the 339th has been part of the Pittsburgh community since it first deployed in World War I.

"Clearly the unit has a long and strong history," she said. "From that perspective, it is a loss."

In addition to the first world war, members of the 339th served in England in World War II and later in Korea, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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