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Cooper assumes command of 123rd Medical Group

Col. Barry Gorter (left), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, passes the 123rd Medical Group guidon to Col. Michael Cooper as Cooper assumes command of the group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 13, 2014. Copper replaces Col. Henry “Hank” Heard, who is retiring after 23 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter (left), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, passes the 123rd Medical Group guidon to Col. Michael Cooper as Cooper assumes command of the group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 13, 2014. Copper replaces Col. Henry “Hank” Heard, who is retiring after 23 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Col. Michael A. Cooper accepted the 123rd Medical Group guidon during a ceremony in the Base Annex Sept. 13, symbolizing his appointment as the group's new commander.

Cooper, the former Air Force Reserve Command Biomedical Sciences Corps senior leader for the physician assistant career field, replaces Col. Henry Heard, who is retiring.

"We have the right person taking over the group," said Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. "We're glad you're here. You've got an amazingly talented group of people that you get to work with."

Cooper is a 1991 graduate of the Physician Assistant Program at the University of Kentucky, where he was a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps. He was commissioned in the Kentucky Army National Guard as a physician assistant and served in Company C, 103rd Forward Support Battalion, 35th Infantry Division, for three years.

In 1995, Cooper joined the Air Force Reserve's 44th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where he served as chief of clinical services prior to his appointment as Biomedical Sciences Corps senior leader and entry into the Individual Mobilization Augmentee program.

Cooper's humanitarian work includes tours of duty in Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Chad and Niger, and at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. In addition, Cooper deployed to Balad, Iraq, where he was the first Air Force physician assistant assigned to the emergency room at the newly established 332nd Air Force Theater Hospital in 2004. Cooper practiced trauma care during the battle of Fallujah, Iraq, and was instrumental in the care of hundreds of combat casualties at the peak of the war in Iraq.

As the ceremony came to a close, Cooper addressed the members of the 123rd Medical Group, pledging to maintain the unit's history of excellence.

"It's really good to be home, and I'm so honored to be your commander," Cooper said. "I want to thank Col. Gorter for entrusting this to me. I am well aware of the daunting task that lies ahead -- not just in filling Col. Heard's shoes, but in rising to the task of leading this incredible medical unit.

"In the days and months to come, we'll talk more about our shared vision," Cooper continued. "For today, however, let me say that I believe in leadership in which officers and NCOs lead from the front, set the example and deeply care for the troops. I will hold all leaders accountable for doing this, and I will hold myself to the highest standard of all. We will maintain the continuity of excellence you have already established before my arrival."