Army's longest-serving medical officer retires

By Alexandra Snyder

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, Sept. 28, 2015) -- For decades Col. Arthur Wittich has cared for service members and their Families, delivering an estimated 10,000 babies and ushering in the next generation of military Families.

On Sept. 25, the oldest Soldier in the Military District of Washington retired after 44 years of service.

Wittich's career in the military began in 1956, when he enlisted in the Navy. He served six years as a hospital corpsman before separating to attend college and medical school. He earned his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree in 1971. His father, a Navy veteran, then helped commission him into the Army.

"I came into the Army, and it was a wonderful choice," he said. "I have gotten to be both a doctor and a Soldier, which in my opinion, are the two best jobs in the world."

Surgeon General of the Army Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho said Wittich does both jobs exceptionally well.

"When I was a second lieutenant, I served under Lt. Col. Wittich," she recalled during Whittich's retirement ceremony which she hosted. "He was the epitome of what I thought a Soldier should be; of what a doctor should be. After 44 years of service, nothing has changed. He still epitomizes that to me. It has been an honor to learn from him all these years."

Those years have seen Wittich serve in posts as far away as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Hawaii, but throughout it all, Wittich's son, Montana State Rep. Art Wittich, said his father was never far from his Family. The younger Wittich said his father even took great pains to become a licensed and registered practitioner in the state of Montana so he could deliver Art's first daughter, Ali.

"I remember being in elementary school and going to bed with dad still at the kitchen table, studying books that seemed taller than me," he said. "He wasn't a good doctor because of some innate natural ability. He worked incredibly hard to get where he is. He was equally devoted to us, his Family. He's a great dad."

Wittich, who has also completed medical mission trips in Africa and Latin America, said he's not yet ready to take off his white coat. He said he would like to donate his time to international medical projects to help populations in need and train foreign practitioners during his retirement years.

The need for medical care in other countries is incredible, he said, noting he traveled to Nigeria to remove large tumors from patients and to Niger to perform fistula repair on women who suffered genital mutilation.

With a list of publications, medical honors, academic appointments, certifications, and numerous military awards, Wittich is recognized in the military and medical community for his work.

For most of the past 16 years, he worked at the no-longer-in-existence Dewitt Army Community Hospital and the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, where he kept a busy schedule of delivering babies, performing surgery, instructing residents, and responding to medical emergencies.

Outside the hospital, he enjoys time with his wife, Lucy, with whom he has been married to for nearly six decades; his son Art; and his two granddaughters, Ali and Madison.

"At the end of the day, when I hang up my medical bag and take off the uniform, my Family is what I come home to. You never retire from being a husband, father, and grandfather," Wittich said. "I have been blessed in my career, and I've worked hard. But my biggest accomplishment is the relationship I have with my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters. I won't get a medal for it, but it is what I cherish the most."