JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Commander Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster hosted the casing ceremony for the Medical Professional Training Brigade April 20 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Col. Shannon Shaw, the chief of the department of leader training at MEDCoE, was the final MPTB commander before its deactivation in 2021 and participated in the ceremony meant to symbolize the dissolution of the training brigade. Command Sgt. Maj. Gilberto Colon, 32d Medical Brigade Commander represented the MPTB command sergeant major position during the ceremony.
Shaw, who accepted the MPTB Command position in July 2019, knew that one of her major duties would be overseeing the orderly discontinuation of the Brigade during her tenure.
“In an almost counterintuitive way, something that I didn’t expect at all, the reorganization and our impending discontinuation, bonded us in a way that would not have been possible otherwise,” Shaw said. She recognized many Soldiers and leaders, by name, in her speech, who she said were instrumental to the MPTB’s success. “We became a Family. So today is all about honoring and thanking that Family.”
Prior to the initiation of the MPTB in 2015, which intended to distribute the training load, the 32nd Medical Brigade was the school’s sole training brigade responsible for all four training battalions. Originally named the Academy Brigade (Provisional), the official orders to reflag the brigade as the MPTB was published March 14, 2017, with an effective date of June 1, 2017; the official reflag ceremony was conducted July 1, 2017. The MPTB was comprised of the 187th and 188th Medical Battalions, two of MEDCoE’s four training battalions.
Col. William Scott Drennon, the brigade’s first commander, and his team started the painstaking process of developing procedures and logistical requirements to bring the brigade to fruition. The MPTB overcame countless barriers including a lack of functional unit identification codes, geographic dispersion across four different states, key position vacancies, Tables of Distribution and Allowances challenges, budget constraints, organizational resistance to change, and other growing pains that come with new business practices.
In its relatively short lifespan, MPTB had an impressive tenure, comprised of two battalions, six companies, and four detachments with a total workforce of over 2,700 members and a daily average student population of over 2,000 Soldiers.
The MPTB had direct oversight of 11 academic teaching departments with an additional 30 sub-departments and branches responsible for over 200 courses. These programs include all MEDCoE Officer Professional Military Education courses, graduate-level courses, and Advanced Individual Training for Initial Entry Training Soldiers in 15 different medical military occupational specialties.
As part of the realignment of the MEDCoE to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command from the U.S. Army Medical Command, the MPTB was officially discontinued on June 1, 2021. With the deactivation of the MPTB came an opportunity to synchronize MEDCoE academic and support operations, once again, under one brigade headquarters: the 32nd Medical Brigade. Final discontinuation by Headquarters, Department of the Army was official, however, operations tempo and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the casing ceremony.
Though MEDCoE is back to one training brigade, with the creation of the Office of the Commandant, teaching departments formerly aligned under the MPTB are now organized under the OTC allowing for increased academic oversight and information flow between teaching departments. The MEDCoE Commandant helps maintain this oversight, mainly leaving the singular brigade commander with direct responsibility for personnel.
There were only three MPTB commanders and four command sergeants major since its inception in 2015. The commander between Shaw and Drennon was Col. Shauna Snyder, who was in command from July 2017 to July 2019. The command sergeants major were Henry Chapman, Carlisie Jones, Jody Stanley, and Jennifer Redding.
LeMaster, who assumed command of the MEDCoE in January 2020 when the unit’s reorganization was well underway, spoke of the achievements of MPTB as a whole, and Shaw in particular, as the last MPTB commander.
“The one thing that has always resonated about the MPTB is its teamwork,” LeMaster said. Teamwork was especially important during the lengthy deactivation and unit reorganization process that consumed the last two years. “The agility, resilience, and optimism that radiates from Col. Shaw permeated the entire formation.”
LeMaster and Shaw both acknowledged the bitter-sweet moment of the day though the discontinuation and consolidation into the 32d Medical Brigade were necessary to align with the TRADOC construct.
“Shannon, you were at the helm at the right time and in the right place to make sure all of the proper elements of your brigade had the proper landing place within the MEDCoE,” LeMaster said. “The effects of Col. Shaw’s attention to detail, superior planning and diligence will help rudder our command in the right direction: forward.”