JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, conducted a change of command ceremony Jan. 10, where Maj. Gen. Patrick D. Sargent relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Dennis P. LeMaster. The ceremony was hosted by Lt. Gen. James E. Rainey, commanding general, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
Dozens of current and retired general officers and community leaders were among the nearly 400 attendees who marked the event.
On the MacArthur Parade Field, directly across from the MEDCoE command headquarters building, more than 350 soldiers and staff officers in formation executed drill and ceremony such as “Pass in Review,” a display of custom and courtesy that is a long standing military tradition symbolizing a newly assigned commander’s inspection of their troops.
The soldiers on the field represented the more than 7,352 currently assigned to MEDCoE. There were also cannon salutes, a color guard, current and historical medical evacuation vehicles on display, and accompaniment by the 323rd Army Band “Fort Sam’s Own” during the event.
Sargent, the outgoing commander, is a combat-tested medical evacuation pilot who deployed numerous times in support of two wars, served as the 18th Chief of the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps and held many command positions at all levels during his 35-year career in service to Army Medicine. He was the first commander of the newly redesignated MEDCoE, as the unit recently changed its name from AMEDD Center and School and were realigned from the U.S. Army Medical Command to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command with operational control under the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center in October 2019.
The organization traces its lineage to the Medical Field Service School that was founded at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania in 1920 and will celebrate its centennial anniversary later this year with LeMaster as the new commander.
LeMaster, now the 19th Chief of the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, comes to the MEDCoE from the U.S. Army Regional Health Command-Pacific, where he has served as commanding general and U.S. Army Pacific Command Surgeon since June 2018. LeMaster previously commanded Regional Health Command Europe and served as the U.S Army Europe Command Surgeon in Sembach, Germany. LeMaster has also completed many operational deployments and commanded at every level from company to region throughout his 33 years of service to the Army.
During his remarks, Rainey lauded Sargent with the many significant accomplishments he has had over the last 18 months of command. He joked with LeMaster, who had been successful in the past taking over challenging units that had previously struggled, by saying that the only thing worse than taking over a substandard unit and bringing them up to standard is taking over a great organization like the MEDCoE from a great commander like Sargent.
“He (Sargent) established the Medical Center of Excellence as the center of gravity for all Army Medicine,” Rainey said. “One of the great things about the Army is that we replace one great leader with another.”
Rainey related that the changing of a successful commander is a tradition in the Army indicating that no one person, regardless of their achievements, is bigger than the organization that will surely thrive despite a change in leadership.
“Dennis LeMaster is the perfect commander to lead the Medical Center of Excellence,” Rainey said. He also challenged LeMaster to “lead your organization well and continue to develop those around you.”
LeMaster expressed how humbling it is to follow in Sargent’s footsteps, whom he described as one of the most consequential and impactful leaders he has known in the last 20 years. “Today I am truly honored to pick up the torch and lead on into the future,” LeMaster said.
Sargent, who is retiring after 35 years of dedicated service to the Army, described how he is proud of the strides the organization has taken to modernize and reorganize since he took command. He admitted that, though it make look strange to others, he looks at the new organization chart and sees that the organization is stronger.
“Stronger in that we are all well on your way to becoming a more integrated, more agile, more nuanced medical entity on behalf of the Warfighter,” Sargent explained.
MEDCoE is the Army proponent responsible to envision and design responsive Army Medicine capabilities, structure and doctrine that support the fielded force and the future force. MEDCoE trains, educates and inspires nearly 37,000 soldiers in over 360 training and education programs annually that include everyone from combat medics, doctors, and veterinarians to food inspectors, medical technicians, and hospital administrators.
Sargent related that he believes the most important thing the MEDCoE does is improving performance, care, health and the well-being of Soldiers. “Our most powerful weapons are our Soldiers,” Sargent asserted.
To conclude the ceremony, LeMaster, told the many MEDCoE, Army Medicine, TRADOC and CAC leaders, soldiers and civilians in the audience that he was eager to build upon the successes that the CoE has already enjoyed.
“During these times of unprecedented transformation across the Army, Army Medicine, and the Military Health System, the work that you have done and the work that we will continue to do in developing leaders, maximizing readiness, and integrating medical capabilities, capacity and solutions into the Army Modernization Strategy is essential to towards building the force of the future; an Army capable of multi-domain operations and large scale combat in multiple theaters, simultaneously.”
To learn more about the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, visit https://www.medcoe.army.mil.