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Local Navy technicians gain practical experience from COVID-19 maintenance backlog

By Randy Martin | Naval Medical Research Unit-San Antonio Public Affairs | June 10, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

The Naval Medical Research Unit-San Antonio, or NAMRU-SA, is giving some Navy graduates of the Medical Education and Training Campus Biomedical Equipment Technician, or BMET, program practical experience that attacks one of COVID-19’s side effects, a maintenance backlog. The Sailors are currently assigned to the Navy Medicine Training Support Center, or NMTSC, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

“Because of the COVID-19 closure, we got behind on our preventive maintenance inspections,” said Chief Petty Officer David Snow, NAMRU-SA’s senior enlisted leader and a Navy BMET.

There are more than 1,300 pieces of medical and dental research equipment in NAMRU-SA’s worksites at the Tri-Service Research Laboratory and the Battlefield Health Trauma Building. Both research facilities are located at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

Each tool requires service, inspection, or calibration. About 250 items were overdue for periodic maintenance on the 60th day of the mandatory social distancing campaign, which emptied labs and left equipment secure, but unattended.

Snow knew that if the backlog got worse it might jeopardize battlefield health research.

He knew about a recent memorandum of understanding between NAMRU-SA and Navy Medicine Training Support Center, or NMTSC, which allows for mutual assistance whenever possible. He got support from the executive officers in both commands and eight recent BMET graduates reported for work at NAMRU-SA May 18.

Dozens of more Sailors are completing BMET training at the school and may wait to report to their duty stations worldwide because of the Department of Defense’s movement restrictions. The initiative gives new technicians experience and mentoring by experts in the BMET career field.

“It’s a daunting task for three individuals,” Snow said. He and two defense contractors, all former Navy instructors at the BMET School, take care of NAMRU-SA’s biomedical equipment. “One of the three of us are there supervising and doing quality control and making sure that everything was done to the manufacturer’s specifications,” Snow added.

The new BMET graduates work with NAMRU-SA for three 8-hour days each week. The team is able to complete a greater number of work orders in a single day and that is reducing the backlog.

The new graduates document their work in the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support. Their effort is reviewed for accuracy. It’s a confidence-builder and exactly what the BMETs will be doing when they get to their shops.

“I was a little bit nervous about leaving here because I have never been a BMET before,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Walker. Prior to attending the BMET course, Walker was a Navy dental technician. His next assignment is at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Virginia.

“Having this experience is going to help me slide into my next assignment pretty smoothly,” Walker said.