JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, which marked its centennial birthday without ceremony in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conducted a 102nd MEDCoE birthday commemoration event to honor the MEDCoE’s place in Army Medicine’s rich and storied history at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston May 13.
The ceremony, hosted by the MEDCoE Command Group of Maj. Dennis LeMaster, Command Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier and J.M. Harmon III, welcomed more than 200 online and in-person attendees and opened with a historical video.
According to MEDCoE historian Lewis Barger, the MEDCoE origin story began May 15, 1920, when Maj. Gen. Merritt Weber Ireland, The Surgeon General of the U.S. Army at the time, gave the approval to establish the Medical Field Service School at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The foundation continued in Texas as the school was moved to Fort Sam Houston in 1946. Today, the school boasts the largest trooped force on the joint base.
Ceremony attendees included JBSA and San Antonio community leaders including Joseph Bray, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (Texas South); Diana Denman, U.S. Army North distinguished quartermaster; and City of San Antonio’s District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, representing the mayor of San Antonio. Perry is also a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel
Perry spoke about military and Army contributions to San Antonio that helped shaped the city’s landscape as far back as 300 years ago.
“So, even though y’all [the school], didn’t move here to San Antonio until 1946,” Perry said. “Y’all have a rich, deep history here in San Antonio.”
After Perry’s remarks, LeMaster addressed the crowd and thanked attendees.
“While 102nd birthdays don’t normally get this much fanfare, this one is special because we get to celebrate with all of you, unlike our true centennial was in May 2020,” LeMaster said.
Acknowledging that COVID-19 is still a concern in the U.S. and the world, he remarked how proud he has been about the unit’s COVID-19 response.
“As a command, we have continued to train Soldiers safely and expertly in their chosen profession within Army Medicine despite the challenges of COVID.”
LeMaster also spoke about MEDCoE’s future.
“Developing leaders, driving change, and conserving fighting strength are what we do as stewards of the Army and Army Medicine profession; it is deliberate, purposeful, and painstaking,” said LeMaster, who has been in command since January 2020 and is scheduled to relinquish command in June 2022. “The reward is up to, and including, lives saved or enhanced through the power of medicine and Soldiering.”
The birthday ceremony also included a 102nd birthday video and more, concluding with the group singing the Army song. As is tradition, the youngest MEDCoE Soldier and the civilian employee with the most time in service assisted the MEDCoE Command Group with the cake cutting. The most junior Soldier was Pvt. Frederic LeBlanc, an 18-year-old 68W combat medic and the civilian employee with the most years of service was James Murray, with more than50 years of federal service.
LeMaster concluded his remarks by explaining why the hard work of securing the future of Army medicine begins with leaders, cadres, staff and students at the schoolhouse.
“In our next 100 years we will seek to broaden our knowledge and aptitude, not only of what to train to save more lives on and off the battlefield,” LeMaster explained. “But how to train through strategic partnerships, development and expanded networks of support that will be cultivated through our communities, and even globally.”
To learn more about the MEDCoE centennial, visit https://medcoe.army.mil/centennial.