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
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.
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
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.