JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – On the bright and early morning of August 26, 2022, the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) welcomed Command Sgt. Major Victor Laragione as the command’s 23rd command sergeant major during a change of responsibility ceremony conducted on MacArthur Field, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas. 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 that was attended by over 300 distinguished guests, MEDCoE staff, cadre and over 200 troops assembled on the parade field, he reflected on the careers of both sergeants major.
In his speech, Talley thanked Charpentier for his many years of service and his many accomplishments since assuming responsibility of the MEDCoE on January 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 lead efforts to combat and persevere over the COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest challenge the Army, and the Nation, have faced in decades. 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,” said Talley. “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 two-and-half-years. He has led a legacy of excellence, and for that we will be forever grateful,” said Talley.
Addressing the audience, Charpentier reflected on his time at MEDCoE, comprised of many achievements and challenges.
“How do I sum up two-and-half-years at this great organization,” asked Charpentier. “Ultimately, it’s about teamwork and growing together. Effective teams come from getting through shared hardships and emerging on the other side victorious.”
With much emotion, 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,” said Charpentier.
In his closing comments, Charpentier thanked both Talley and Maj. Gen. Dennis P. LeMaster, the former MEDCoE commanding general, and the MEDCoE Soldiers, and civilians.
“Thank you so much for being professionals, and for being strong, fit, and disciplined. 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 bitter-sweet 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 (MRDC), 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,” said Talley. “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, the first time in his lengthy and distinguished career.
“General Talley, thank you for the kind words and selecting me for this assignment. You knew this was my dream job,” said Laragione. “I’m proud to be working with you once again.”
Laragione, who has also served in multiple state-side 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,” said Laragione. “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 Alpha Company, 7th of the 158th General Support Aviation Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas performed a fly over 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 helicopter flyover and the symbolism. “As our narrator mentioned, it is certainly symbolic of Army Medicine and our evacuation functional area,” said Talley. “It is also symbolic of our outgoing Command Sergeant Major Charpentier, 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 323d Army Band, Fort Sam’s Own, playing the Army song after Laragione took charge of the Soldiers on the field.
The spectacular event was a tribute 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 coronavirus pandemic, and signified a new path forward for the new MEDCoE Command Team, Laragione and Talley.