MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – Even in the midst of a global pandemic, commands change hands, responsibility shifts. Life goes on. Under Mount Rainier’s watchful eye on Watkins Field on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Col. Thomas Bundt handed the hospital colors off to Brig. Gen. Jack Davis, the Regional Health Command-Pacific acting commanding general, as Col. (Dr.) Christopher Warner stepped in to fill the commander role at Madigan Army Medical Center. Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Laragione also relinquished his responsibility as Madigan’s senior enlisted advisor in the combined ceremony on Wednesday, July 15.
In deference to COVID-19 protocols for gatherings, the massive field was dotted with socially distanced formations consisting of a half dozen representatives each from Madigan’s units – Troop Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Amy Bird, the Soldier Recovery Unit commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Dengler, the California Medical Detachment with its commander, Lt. Col. Zach Solomon, and a civilian contingent led by Frank Bannister, the division chief for Soldier Health.
The distinguished visitors list read like a who’s who of current and former general officers, all of whom are keenly aware of the central role Madigan has long played in both military medicine and in the readiness of the force, especially on JBLM. In discussion, many indicated the importance of leadership at Madigan, with no lack of appreciation for its outgoing commander and confidence in its incoming.
“As one great leader has departed, we have another phenomenal leader coming in right behind him,” noted Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the Army Surgeon General and commanding general of Army Medical Command.
Bundt assumed command on the same field on July 13, 2018 and now heads to the Pentagon to serve as the principal deputy to the assistant director for management in the Defense Health Agency. His wife Elizabeth, a nurse and Navy reserve officer, and two sons Albert and Tommy will remain here.
Laragione assumed responsibility on October 26, 2018. He and his wife Crystal depart with their two children, Sienna and Rocco, for Fort Detrick, Md., where Laragione will serve as the command sergeant major at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command.
Prior to the ceremony, Davis presented Bundt and Laragione with Legion of Merit medals. Upon Elizabeth Bundt, he bestowed the Medical Command’s Dr. Mary Walker Award for demonstrating dedicated and exemplary volunteerism with over 1000 hours of volunteer service. “She's been the number one ambassador for Madigan as well as Army Medicine in this community which is particularly important in the times we're living in,” said Davis. During the ceremony, he also thanked Crystal Laragione, noting her extensive volunteer work and unyielding support of the Soldiers and their families.
Bundt and Laragione brought their combined years of leadership in Army Medicine to bear on numerous changes and challenges during their time in Madigan’s command suites.
They helped Madigan recover from a rough start with the Department of Defense’s new electronic record system, MHS GENESIS, ensuring a successful launch for Madigan’s CAL MED in Monterey, Calif., as well as other DOD military treatment facilities to transition to the EHR in the first wave of its deployment last fall.
“Madigan is recognized as a testbed for new MHS GENESIS products before they're deployed across the enterprise and leads the way for this next step in providing world class health care to our force,” asserted Davis.
Bundt also became the Puget Sound Military Health System market director. As Madigan and the MTFs in the Puget Sound area complete their transition from alignment under their respective services to the DHA, having a market director who is also the commander of the area’s largest MTF provides an on-the-ground awareness of how market facilities function.
In addition to MHS GENESIS refinement and DHA transition, the shift of hundreds of Soldiers from Madigan’s chain of command to MAP, or modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE)-assigned personnel, was a significant test of collaborative abilities. Bundt insisted on extending negotiations for these agreements to provide clear expectations so the Soldiers would not be left with uncertainty in regards to their training, deployment and all manner of logistical considerations.
COVID-19 has taxed the planet’s citizenry, and asked much of its medical professionals. Madigan was the first MTF in the DOD to diagnose and treat a patient with the novel coronavirus. In response, its clinics and services were overhauled to accommodate the diagnostic, treatment and isolation needs the virus presented and continues to require. Bundt and Laragione have been highly engaged voices for Madigan and the medical demands of this pandemic for the base’s population and constant consultants for its senior leaders.
Bundt and Davis made particular mention of Laragione’s efforts in response to the virus.
“He dedicated countless hours ensuring COVID-19 screening and testing sites were established including checkpoints at designated entrances within the hospital, maintaining a high level of safety for our folks,” Davis said.
He also worked in tandem with Navy partners to secure the use of beds for the COVID-19 ward at Madigan, proving Bundt’s point, “With the right leaders involved, anything worth doing is possible.”
Bundt, like so many who come to Madigan as senior leaders, had experience with this sort of dedication.
“Madigan staff in the 1980s put me back together after a very bad motorcycle accident. Two folks that came in with me that night did not leave the hospital. They not only put me back together, and I was in really bad shape, they allowed me to serve in the military for 30 years without a profile. I owe everything to Madigan for that,” explained Bundt. “You do live the mantra – a true hero is someone who does their very best when no one is watching.”
Warner, originally from Toronto, Ohio, was commissioned as a Medical Service Corps officer upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1996, with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, and subsequently as a Medical Corps officer in 2000 upon graduation from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. He also earned a Master of Science in national security strategy from the National War College and is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Family Medicine.
As was the case with Bundt, Warner is no stranger to Madigan.
“You know, this is somewhat surreal. Over 20 years ago, then, Capt. Warner, and 2nd Lt. Warner made the trek from Washington, D.C. out to Washington state to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (then Fort Lewis) to come to Madigan. Carolynn to do her internship, and I to do the majority of my fourth year medical time from USUHS (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences). So to come back at this point in our careers, is just an amazing opportunity,” said Warner.
Warner comes to Madigan from service as the military deputy and chief of staff for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the Pentagon. Warner has also served as the commander of Winn Army Community Hospital in Fort Stewart, Ga. His deployments include two rotations to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Chris is the right person to take the helm at Madigan at this critical time,” said Davis.
For many DOD visitors, the transition to an enhanced multi-service market that is occurring at regions across the military health system was a key point of interest. For example, another attendee who traveled for the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, M.D., the director of the Defense Health Agency, looked to the transition in speaking of Warner’s command.
“My expectation as the DHA director comes from a market perspective. Col. Warner and the market staff will find innovative ways to integrate across the entire market, to provide the best value for all our patients – soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coast guardsmen, retirees and their families,” said Place.
The expectations for the coming years are high, but so is confidence in Warner.
“He can take the understanding for how DHA will ensure the multi-service markets are really collectively optimizing all three services to make sure the healthcare in this region is meeting our military requirements. We have the right leader at the right time,” said the Honorable Thomas McCaffery, the ASD for Health Affairs, and Warner’s most recent boss.
As Warner commented, layered on top of everything Madigan does is its charge as a training ground for the next generation of Army medical professionals.
“Madigan is one of our keystone locations for training our student health care professionals. We have more than 200 students on rotation here each year. So Madigan is foundational for our university training program,” said Dr. Richard Thomas, the president of USUHS.
Thomas is a retired Army major general who traversed the country from USUHS’ home in Bethesda, Md., to attend the ceremony. He has worked alongside and mentored both Bundt and Warner.
“I know them both very well and they are both great leaders; Madigan is in good hands,” he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Pierce, Madigan’s current command sergeant major for its Troop Battalion, will serve as the interim senior enlisted advisor until the arrival of a permanent command sergeant major.
In addition to those who attended in person, many more watched the livestream of the ceremony on Madigan’s Facebook page where the video can still be viewed. Please visit www.facebook.com/MadiganHealth to see the ceremony and more news from Madigan.
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