By Stephanie P. AbdullahJuly 2, 2013
FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- When then Col. Patrick D. Sargent learned he'd been selected for promotion to brigadier general, he said he thought--'Wow, the Army has a sense of humor.'
"I'm so pleased the Army has a sense of humor." said the Panama City, Fla., native.
Sargent pinned on his first star on the Army's 238th birthday, June 14, 2013, in a packed house at the Women in Military Service Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery. Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) spoke at the ceremony and helped with the "pinning" honors.
"Today's ceremony is one in which we recognize excellence, but is also about family," said Horoho. No general officer can reach that rank without committed support from family," she said.
Sargent's family was out in full support including his wife Sherry, daughter Samantha, his mother and even his grandmother and a host of other family members and loved ones.
"I wouldn't be here without them," said Sargent who has been married for most of his military career. "My grandparents on both sides of my family served as role models for hard work," he said. "They always championed education. I came from humble beginnings and they always wanted us to have a better quality of life than they did. They saw education as the key to that," said Sargent.
Sargent took heed--earning an MA in Human Resources Development from Webster University, an MS in National Security from the National Defense University, and his BA in Political Science from Florida State University where he pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, a Greek fraternity.
His participation in Kappa Alpha Psi helped guide him throughout his life and military career, he said. "Kappa Alpha Psi is an organization that enhances the lives of and mentors young African American men," he said. "The brotherhood played a significant role in my life and my commitment to achieve. They taught me about the importance of achievement in every field of human endeavor."
Were it not for Sargent's fraternal affiliation, his life would have for sure gone down a different path. Sargent was in his school's Air Force Senior ROTC, with a dream and goal of becoming an Air Force pilot, which he'd only become if he finished at the top of his ROTC class. Because of distractions related to Kappa Alpha Psi, Sargent fell short of qualifying for to be an Air Force pilot. However, he was in luck. The Army ROTC was right next door.
"I walked in and said, I wanna join the Army and I wanna fly," said Sargent. He joined the Army, however, it would be two years before Sargent by "chance" received a message that contained information about how he could branch transfer into the Medical Services Corps AND become a pilot.
"I'm glad he wasn't paying attention in Air Force ROTC," joked Horoho. "Cuz he would have ended up an Air Force general officer," said Horoho.
In the Army, Sargent flew, commanded and has made it--28 years later to flag officer status. He's now one of less than 200 Army active component one star generals. Sargent is only one of
three African American Army Medical Department general officers currently serving on active duty Maj. Gen. Nadja West and Brig. Gen. Norvell Coots are the other two. In his nearly three decade long career he's had the opportunity to-- in his words, "bring humanity to the battlefield" at many levels. He served in combat as a captain as a company commander, a battalion commander as a lieutenant colonel, and a brigade commander as a colonel. He counts his 15-months in Iraq in 2007-2008 as his most memorable. He served as the commander of the Medical Task Force and was in charge of all medical care in Iraq during his command.
"Those 15-months were phenomenal," said Sargent. "We were saving lives, he said. The feeling of evacuating Soldiers when there has been an IED attack, and getting them on to higher levels of medical care is amazing. We maintained a low death rate and a high return to duty rate. We brought humanity to the battlefield."
There were times that a wounded detainee would be in a hospital bed right next to a wounded American Soldier.
"I didn't know who the detainees were, or what they did or where," said Sargent. "I just knew we had to provide the best medical care possible and we did. One day one of the detainees thanked me for providing him with great medical care. That's bringing humanity to the battlefield," said Sargent.
Col. Rivers Johnson, Public Affairs Officer at United States Cyber Command, served with Sargent in Iraq.
"When I experienced his work ethic I knew he was on his way to bigger and better things," said Johnson. If you know him, you knew he was destined for this. It was just a matter of time," Rivers said.
Sargent currently serves as Special Assistant to the Army Surgeon General, providing over site for Army Medicine's Performance Triad Initiative of Activity, Nutrition, and Sleep, which is a key enabler for the Army's Ready and Resilient program. In July he will head up MEDCOM's G-3/5/7.
The Performance Triad will continue to be one of the programs within his purview.
"This time I've spent as Special Assistant has really helped me develop an intimate appreciation for Lt. Gen. Horoho's priorities," said Sargent. "The Performance Triad is designed not only to help the Army improve Soldier readiness, but Family Readiness as well and influence a fundamental culture shift from healthcare to health," Sargent said. I'm happy to be playing even a small role in keeping Soldiers and families healthy and hopefully influencing a nation of healthier people in the process."
As an African American Soldier, Sargent said he knows he stands on the shoulders of many who came before him who had much harder times than he did such as Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldiers. He says he is up for his future challenges.
"Being a Soldier in the Medical Services Corps has been fulfilling, rewarding, and gratifying and I'll serve for as long as the Army will have me."