JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence welcomed Command Sgt. Major Victor Laragione as the command’s 23rd command sergeant major during a change of responsibility ceremony conducted at MacArthur Field at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Aug. 26.
Laragione assumed responsibility, beginning his service as the unit’s senior enlisted advisor following his predecessor, Command Sgt. Major Clark Charpentier.
As Maj. Gen. Michael J. Talley, MEDCoE commanding general, officiated the ceremony attended by more than 300 distinguished guests, MEDCoE staff, cadre and more than 200 troops assembled on the parade field, he reflected on the careers of both sergeants major.
Talley thanked Charpentier for his years of service and his many accomplishments since assuming the responsibility forled the MEDCoE Jan. 31, 2020.
Though Charpentier’s list of accomplishments is lengthy, Talley said some of the highlights include assisting the reorganization of the command and the shift to multi-domain and large-scale combat operations, serving as a proponent of the realignment of the Army Expert Field Medical Badge, and renovating the Project Warrior program.
Shortly after his arrival at MEDCoE, Charpentier also led efforts to combat and persevere over the COVID-19 pandemic. Closer to home, Charpentier helped the command weather the 2021 snowstorm that knocked out power for most of Texas, including Fort Sam Houston.
Talley said Charpentier was vital in the command’s efforts to quickly adapt processes and training, ensuring a 99 percent course completion rate and executing 604 classes while graduating almost 16,000 personnel despite those conditions.
“He has been a change agent,” Talley said. “I could go on and on about his contributions, but we don’t have until sundown. We’re talking about probably ten years of accomplishments in a short 2 1/2 years. He has led a legacy of excellence and for that, we will be forever grateful.”
“How do I sum up 2 1/2 years at this great organization,” Charpentier asked as he addressed the audience and reflected on his time at MEDCoE. “Ultimately, it’s about teamwork and growing together. Effective teams come from getting through shared hardships and emerging on the other side victorious.”
Charpentier recalled how the MEDCoE, and even his own family – now a Gold Star Family – suffered great losses during his tenure, due to unforeseen illnesses, accidents and violence.
“Those are the types of things that drew us together as an organization and made us stronger,” Charpentier said.
In his closing comments, Charpentier thanked both Talley and Maj. Gen. Dennis P. LeMaster, the former MEDCoE commanding general, as well as the MEDCoE Soldiers and civilians.
“Thank you so much for being professionals, and for being strong, fit and disciplined,” he said. “A generation of warriors are impacted by what you do at the Medical Center of Excellence.”
Talley, who has been in command for just over 60 days, remarked how bittersweet the moment was, saying farewell to Charpentier while welcoming Laragione. Talley and Laragione previously served together at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, with both leaders transitioning from MRDC to MEDCoE.
“As part of the life cycle of command we’re equally blessed to have a command sergeant major of Victor Laragione’s high caliber,” Talley said. “This will be the second time that Command Sgt. Maj. Laragione and I will serve together as a command team. I look forward to another great ride with my battle buddy.”
Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, Laragione is happy for the opportunity to serve in his home state for the first time in his lengthy and distinguished career.
“Gen. Talley, thank you for the kind words and for selecting me for this assignment. You knew this was my dream job,” Laragione said. “I’m proud to be working with you once again.”
Laragione, who has also served in multiple stateside and overseas European and Pacific assignments, including deployments to Honduras and Bosnia-Herzegovina, pledged to focus on people during his tenure.
“Team MEDCoE, you can count on me,” Laragione said. “I am here to serve you. I promise to be your advocate and look forward to meeting you and working side-by-side.”
Laragione thanked Charpentier for his service and promised to carry on his initiatives.
“Charp, through your superb leadership you have left a mark that will not be forgotten,” Laragione said. I will keep your new number on speed dial. I’ll be calling.”
During the ceremony, the audience experienced not only the time-honored tradition of the passing of the colors, but a special moment as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to Company A, 7th of the 158th General Support Aviation Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, performed a flyover as a reminder of MEDCoE’S role in aviation medicine. The flight also paid honor to Charpentier, the most senior flight medic in the Army.
In his remarks, Talley highlighted the helicopter flyover and the symbolism.
“As our narrator mentioned, it is certainly symbolic of Army Medicine and our evacuation functional area,” Talley said. “It is also symbolic of our outgoing command sergeant major, who happens to be the senior flight medic in Army Medicine. That’s a tribute to him and the power of this great institution.”
The ceremony ended with the 323rd Army Band, Fort Sam’s Own, playing the Army song after Laragione took charge of the Soldiers on the field.
The event was a tribute to Charpentier’s time at MEDCoE and his steadfast support of Soldiers and families over the past 29 months, most of which were during the global COVID-19 pandemic, and signified a new path forward for the new MEDCoE Command Team of Laragione and Talley.