By Mike O'Toole, Army MedicineJuly 25, 2014
Brig. Gen. Patrick Sargent, deputy chief of staff for of operations for the Army Medical Command, is calling on its future leaders to "seize every opportunity to increase your understanding of the Army and Army Medicine." This is because "you are the greatest representative and spokesperson for health and its vital impact on the readiness and resilience of the Total Army Force," Sargent told students at the Command and General Staff College campus at Fort Belvoir, Va. on July 23.
The 19 Army Medicine students received an overview of the challenges facing the command within the context of the Army as a whole as both face drawdown in the aftermath of cessation of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do you maintain readiness under sequestration conditions, Sargent asked rhetorically: with "no major land conflict, how do we define ourselves?" And regardless of all that, as far as the Army's health care operations are concerned, there still must be "a balance between the generating force and the operating force."
Sargent posed that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno's call for "Human Performance Optimization" is a means by which Army Medicine can position itself as an innovator in how physical performance is designed, implemented and ultimately enhanced. This would be through unit-based programs grounded in a standardized, research-validated program of Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT) whose emphasis on a variety of routines would increase overall physical prowess while also reducing injuries, as documented in Army Field Manual (FM) 7-22. This program is more convenient guide for company commanders to achieve their unit goals "than anything I had back in 1990," Sargent quipped.
The operations chief (also referred to as MEDCOM's "G-3/5/7") briefed the students on his role heading up the AMEDD futures study, which will present Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, surgeon general and MEDCOM commander, on as many as "60 courses of action" on how to reconfigure the command to adapt to change that could include redefining existing functional (such as Public Health and Dental) and regional (from four to two) commands.
Sargent also commented on the upcoming Department of Defense (DoD) modernization study due on August 6, and cited the difficulties inherent in cutting what and where. He asserted that it's one thing to cut a surgical service or a surgical ward, but you still need ICU's and dining services: "cutting facilities does not always make business sense. You're not necessarily saving money." He also made the case for how key training and research were essential to maintain combat readiness.
"We are thankful that AMEDD provided Brig. Gen. Sargent to provide the OTSG leadership point of view concerning the future of Army Medicine, critical discussions ongoing at the senior leader level and the impact of the current fiscal situation and drawdown on the AMEDD force," said CGSC Assistant Professor James Kennedy.
"It is important for us who are currently delivering patient care to be able to take a step back and be reacquainted with the bigger picture of the Medical Command as a whole and to visualize our place within the Army and the Department of Defense. Brig Gen Sargent was able readjust and clarify my perspective," said CGSC Student, Lt. Col. Won Kim (60S-Opthalmologist).
The CGSC satellite campus at Fort Belvoir provides common core instruction to 128 officers during a four-month resident course taught three times a year. Students taking the course are from all branches of the Army and receive the same resident instruction that officers receive during the common core at CGSC's main campus at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The curriculum covers Joint and Multinational Doctrine, Planning and Strategy; Leadership and Organizational Development; Ethics; Sustainment; Force Management; Tactics; and Military History.