JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Army Medical Logistics Command leaders are tackling the challenge of standardizing the processes and technology Army units, including the National Guard and Army Reserve, use to order medical equipment and supplies.
Army experts gathered for a workshop at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, as part of an ongoing initiative called Medical Logistics in Campaigning. The effort is aimed at streamlining medical materiel ordering and medical device maintenance while posturing the Army to be medically ready to transition quickly from peacetime at home station to an active operational environment.
The initiative is the combined effort of 16 different agencies working to fine-tune these processes using available technologies.
"Integrating medical logistics into the Army Sustainment Enterprise requires a Total Army solution," said Col. Jason Hughes, director of AMLC's Strategic Initiatives Group. "The complexities of being arrayed across the United States and territories as a part-time force require a supply chain responsive to Army Reserve and Army National Guard medical requirements."
Workshop attendees included representatives from the Medical Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Office of The Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and Defense Logistics Agency-Troop Support.
"This offsite allowed the enterprise to understand the challenges of transitioning from a medical treatment facility ordering construct and develop an outcome that enables our National Guard and Reserve partners to build readiness and replicate processes used during crisis or conflict," Hughes said.
Currently, National Guard units pull medical materiel from warehouses located stateside, using separate ordering and inventory systems that do not "talk" to the active-duty Army’s systems including Global Combat Support System-Army, or GCSS-Army.
Furthermore, the group noted that reserves mainly depend on direct shipments from the national or wholesale level.
AMLC logistics management specialist Pete Ramos said moving the National Guard and Reserve units into a system that runs orders through a standardized, centrally managed process -- the same systems and processes used by active duty -- will improve Total Army readiness.
"AMLC will be able to provide oversight over the national-level processes and function as the Army’s 'finger on the pulse' of medical materiel order satisfaction and distribution," Ramos said.
Additionally, the team recommended improvements to unit-level medical maintenance procedures. AMLC’s Chief Warrant Officer 5 Lee Nelson said National Guard Soldiers should work closely with AMLC’s Medical Maintenance Operations Divisions, or MMODs, to develop additional training experience with sophisticated medical devices.
"I anticipate that once this is structured correctly, 68As (biomedical equipment specialists) assigned to Army National Guard units will be provided more opportunities to work on the equipment that is in the region," Nelson said.
Nelson added loading and tracking equipment with associated maintenance plans in GCSS-Army will also increase the visibility of the unit’s actual readiness. In other words, are the unit’s medical devices working and ready to save lives when needed in an operational environment?
"The work will actually be captured entirely in GCSS-Army allowing the National Guard to better see what needs to be done versus what is done," Nelson said. "This is likely going to increase the requirements and will be important supporting data for future development of the maintenance program."
The team also explored the Reserve's Medical Equipment Concentration Sites, or MECS, located in Ogden, Utah, and Fort Dix, New Jersey, which focus primarily on the readiness of medical devices.
Jorge Magana, director of the Medical Maintenance Management Directorate at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a direct reporting unit of AMLC, said the team is exploring how to expand this capability.
"The MECS are the backbone to the Reserve's maintenance processes," Magana said, "and, if leveraged across the board as a requirement, they could provide a significant increase in medical equipment readiness."