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Modular Medical Logistics Support at the JRTC

The 32d Medical Logistics Battalion deployed a forward distribution team with the 82d Sustainment Brigade during its JRTC rotation, demonstrating the benefits of modular logistics to the medical community.

The ongoing Global War on Terrorism continues to remind us that we face an adaptive enemy. Today’s combat arms units must be properly trained, prepared, and equipped to respond to this changing threat. Likewise, combat service support units, especially medical logistics units, must prepare to provide uninterrupted service to an amorphous, nonlinear battlefield. This preparation is critical because it provides lifesaving resources and improves the quality of healthcare provided to our forces.

The Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is one venue for training to meet the needs of the Global War on Terrorism. The JRTC focuses on improving unit readiness by providing highly realistic joint and combined arms training across the full spectrum of conflict (current and future).

During the JRTC 06–06 rotation, the 32d Medical Logistics Battalion sent a small modular forward distribution team (FDT) with the 82d Sustainment Brigade to provide medical logistics support. The team consisted of a Medical Service Corps first lieutenant with combat experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 04–06, four medical supply specialists, and a medical maintenance technician. The FDT served as a critical modular plug to facilitate the flow of class VIII (medical materiel) from the supply point outside the area of operations to the customer, ensuring rapid, direct medical maintenance support for task force units.

The FDT’s goal was to integrate with the 82d Sustainment Brigade support operations cell to provide subject matter expertise and assistance by linking tactical medical logistics requirements with strategic- and operational-level capabilities. In turn, supporting the 82d Sustainment Brigade provided the FDT an opportunity for coordinating support for combat operations, obtaining current enemy intelligence reports, and monitoring unit supply status.

Benefits of Participating in the Training

Integrating into the 82d Sustainment Brigade offered FDT personnel a comprehensive view of the battlefield, which improved the team’s ability to take a proactive approach to support operations. The FDT was able to predict medical supply requirements, effectively order preconfigured supply packs before operations began, and deliver the supply packs to the supported task force units in a timely manner. Successful integration of the 82d Sustainment Brigade’s support operations cell and combat health logistics (CHL) operations led to effective supply chain management.

The incorporation of the FDT into the 82d Sustainment Brigade was an integral part of combat service support mission success at the JRTC. It offered the FDT the ability to coordinate with other division commodity managers, section chiefs, and transportation assets. This provided FDT leaders with specific advantages in accomplishing the CHL mission using external (nonmedical) support. The major advantages included simulating class VIII transportation as part of supply chain operations and access to the task force movement planners. FDT personnel also provided the brigade medical planners with an informed and up-to-date assessment of stockage levels and class VIII supply chain issues at echelons-above-brigade level.

FDT Functions During Training

CHL operations at JRTC 06–06 were similar to those experienced in OIF 04–06. In OIF, medical units typically deployed with personnel who were unfamiliar with medical logistics procedures because of military occupational specialty shortages and insufficient training. In response to this shortfall, FDT personnel regularly offered training in automation platforms (the Theater Army Medical Materiel Information System [TAMMIS] or TAMMIS Customer Assistance Module [TCAM]) operations and basic supply chain management operations. Medical units often deployed without the recommended days of supply (DOS) for class VIII. The most critical supply shortages included combat lifesaver equipment and medical materiel related to the trauma and sick call medical equipment sets. In both OIF and JRTC 06–06, the FDT successfully relieved the strain between deployment shortfalls and current operations. The key link was developing the appropriate DOS needed to maintain medical materiel levels at the treatment facilities.

The FDT also offered a distinct and valuable service to all echelons of medical care. During JRTC 06–06, the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) benefited from the FDT support. Using an FDT at the CSH enabled the CHS medical logistics team to focus on internal supply issues and operational concerns while using the FDT for external support requirements. This action reduced the strain placed on the CSH during split-based operations. Direct communication between the CSH and the FDT allowed the CSH to tap into the knowledge of FDT personnel and the FDT’s visibility of external supply systems that affect the availability of medical supplies. The FDT support of level I and level II treatment facilities was similar to that of the CSH.

The FDT also provided critical customer assistance to the brigade medical supply office. The mission of the FDT was to provide the unit with personal customer service; automation system installation, setup, and training; local CHL expertise; class VIII supply chain visibility and tracking; and medical equipment maintenance and repair.

Automation and connectivity were critical tasks for the FDT, so it conducted training and rehearsals on the very small aperture terminal (VSAT) and on the setup, operation, and establishment of a local area network and network troubleshooting. The team also had to be familiar with manual supply procedures in the event of automation failure, so the FDT trained on establishing unit accounts, standardizing document serial numbers, developing push packages, and developing a proactive logistics support attitude. The FDT’s success in supporting the 82d Sustainment Brigade and the 28th CSH resulted from conducting training and rehearsals before the deployment.

Lessons Learned

The JRTC 06–06 rotation offered many opportunities for the use of a modular medical logistics system and provided many lessons learned. The rotation, in conjunction with lessons learned during OIF, also identified key equipment and training challenges associated with a modular system. Improvements in the following areas would significantly enhance modular medical logistics for future operations.

Communications equipment.
Procuring and training on communications equipment, primarily a voice over internet protocol (VOIP) telephone system, would provide the team with a reliable means of communicating with both customers and supply agencies. Current communications assets do not provide the capability to communicate beyond line of sight.

Defense Medical Logistics Support System (DMLSS). Having remote server access to DMLSS would provide much needed awareness of, and access to, supply requisition status, transaction registers, and due-out reports on a consistent basis. Access to DMLSS provides medical logistics personnel with visibility of the supply chain and customers with timely information. Access to, and integration with, the source of supply’s class VIII requisition system (DMLSS) could vastly improve the FDT’s ability to provide responsive CHL support.

Real-time data. The availability of real-time data would help the medical planner decide how to support the warfighter. The medical logistics support personnel from Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital at Fort Polk were not available 24 hours a day to provide updated status, so the ability to view the data on line would allow planners to be more responsive.

Unit class VIII account. Establishing the unit class VIII account is a critical step in establishing a unit in a new area of operations. Units should request contact information for this resource from the medical planners within their command. The use of the medical FDT resource will drastically improve a unit’s readiness and ability to perform its lifesaving mission.

Modular medical logistics provided a ready, relevant, and reliable product for the 82d Sustainment Brigade and the 28th CSH during JRTC 06–06. The 32d Medical Logistics Forward Distribution Team confirmed the value of the modular system. The modular medical logistics model is critical to the future success of the combat health logistics mission at the JRTC and in real-world combat operations.


Colonel Mitchell E. Brew is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics of the 44th Medical Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He holds a B.S. degree in business from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an M.S. degree from the University of Southern California, an M.B.A. degree from George Washington University, and an M.H.A. degree from Baylor University. He is a graduate of the Army Medical Department Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Logistics Executive Development Course, the Joint Medical Planner’s Course, the Army Force Management Course, and the Medical Logistics Management Course.

Captain Shawn R. Campbell is the Deputy Support Operations Officer of the 32d Medical Logistics Battalion. He holds a B.S. degree in human development and family studies from the University of Missouri–Columbia and is a graduate of the Army Medical Department Officer Basic Course.

The authors acknowledge the contributions to this article by Major Benita Shults, the Logistics Staff Officer of the 44th Medical Command, and Captain Jason Fairbanks, Assistant G–4 of the 44th Medical Command.