Retired Lt. Gen. Alcide LaNoue, the Army’s 38th Surgeon General passed away earlier this year on the 20th of February. LaNoue served the nation in the U.S. Army for nearly 40 years.
LaNoue was commissioned as a Second lieutenant in October 1957. He became a general officer in May 1984 and achieved the rank of lieutenant general in September 1992 when he became the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U. S. Army health Services Command.
LaNoue was a graduate of both Harvard and Yale universities and held a variety of assignments throughout his nearly 4 decades of service to the nation. Some of his assignments included time as an orthopedic surgeon; Commander U.S. Army Medical Activity; and Commandant, U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences before becoming the deputy Army Surgeon General in 1989. He also served in Vietnam during 1967 as the Chief of Professional Services and Chief of Surgery, 24th Evacuation Hospital 68th Medical Group, 44th Medical Brigade.
LaNoue is remembered as a visionary leader and is responsible for the current construct of the MEDCOM. The MEDCOM regional headquarters and OneStaff constructs happened under his leadership as well as the market setup used by the Defense Health Agency is credited to the vision of LaNoue.
Retired Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, who became the 42nd Army Surgeon General ran medical education for physicians when LaNoue was the Surgeon General.
“He was a fascinating man. He really was,” said Schoomaker, “I enjoyed working for him.
Schoomaker, who collected LaNoue’s oral history as part of a War College assignment called LaNoue a visionary. LaNoue started a futurist group. The group was responsible for brainstorming about what the future of Army and military medicine would look like. Eventually, the project was taken over by the Military Health System (MHS), Schoomaker explained.
“He was way ahead of the thinking of most of us,” said Schoomaker. “He had an incredible feel for where we were going. He is the father of the regional health command [structure], and he was doing telehealth decades ago,” he said.
Most know that telehealth and virtual medicine become the go-to platform for non-emergency medical care during the 2020 coronavirus global pandemic. Telehealth made it so that medical providers could still care for their patients even if patients could not come to a medical facility in person. Army Medicine has benefitted from telebehavioral health for many years now--predating the pandemic.
During his oral history interview, LaNoue described sending a satellite dish, an Apple computer, and a camera with a medical team that deployed to Somalia in the 1990s.
“I went on a camping trip to New Hampshire, and I took a satellite dish with me, set it up on the picnic table, linked up and talked to the office and did a little email from the satellite,” he said. “And that is probably the same satellite that went to Somalia that I got to play with to see how it could be used,” said LaNoue.
LaNoue started an office that focused on using computer technology for teaching. During that time he also decided that everyone needed email and that the commanding general should have a computer. He said people didn’t even know what email was at the time.
“And so I started sending people emails, a lot of emails,” said La Noue. “And they’d have to respond in email. Email worked. People started to get excited about it,” he said.
Speaking about the various growing technologies and how they could serve the Army, LaNoue said “I had to appear to be somewhat irrational, and vicious and parochial in terms of the Army. I figured all of these are legitimate tools. I had to be as violent and vicious as I dared to be and not lose my effectiveness because then one of the other battles wouldn’t work,” he said.
Former staffer Retired Col. Herb Coley who had a close relationship LaNoue, remembers him as “L3”. L3 is the most visionary Surgeon General I've known. He was a brilliant man with an incredible capacity for processing and storing information. He led the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) into the information age years ahead of other Army organizations. His goal was to have a computer on everyone's desk and a network that could pass information across Army Medicine around the world.
He wanted to reduce travel, speed information flow, and reach out to more people. So video teleconferencing was introduced to the AMEDD. Video teleconferencing morphed into telemedicine. The information technology advancements we take for granted [today] were mostly the products of L3's vision,” said Coley, who was the Manpower Division Chief when LaNoue was the surgeon general.
Coley added, “L3 did more to provide opportunity for Army Medicine leaders than any surgeon general before him. He believed that any AMEDD officer regardless of corps should be provided the opportunity for advancement to general officer if he or she was appropriately developed. Leader development to him was a combination of the right assignments with increasing levels of responsibility, diversity, and complexity; and the right education and training. Until L3 was Surgeon General, over two thirds of AMEDD general officers were Medical Corps,” said Coley.
The AMEDD personnel policies that LaNoue spawned resulted in each AMEDD officer corps, except the Specialist Corps, having at least one general officer. The AMEDD once dominated by Medical Corps general officers provided opportunities never seen before. AMEDD officers of varying backgrounds began commanding both Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) and Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) units and serving in senior staff positions at OTSG and other Army commands. We have now had an Army Nurse Corps officer and Medical Service Corps officer serve as the Army Surgeon General. The opportunity for this would not have been possible had it not been for LaNoue, according to Coley.
“My successor was Patty Horoho (a woman and a nurse),” said Schoomaker. “We can credit him for getting us to think about how to grow the very best leaders regardless of their corps, gender, or professional affiliation, as long as they can lead complex multi-disciplinary teams. He was a farsighted, inspired leader. We would not be where we are today in Army Medicine were it not for Lt. Gen. LaNoue,” said Schoomaker.
LaNoue seemed humbled by all of the credit he is given for transforming the AMEDD.
“Most of what’s credited to me really wasn’t my work,” said LaNoue in his oral history interview in 2000. “It was my integration, I guess. I got the right people ending up doing the right job. That was my participation. I didn’t invent [anything]. I had the knack to recognize good things. I could see the dragons running around. I could see the good things and the good people with the smart ideas. [The idea is to] Get the idiots immobilized and encourage the champions and enhance them and empower them and then sit back and watch them do good things,” said LaNoue.
LaNoue was born in Tonawanda, New York, and is survived by his three children and 20 grand and great grandchildren. During retirement, he became very active in his local church, and he jokingly called himself a “tour guide.” He led many trips to the Holy Land in the Middle East and traced the travels of the Apostle Paul.