Logo and photo courtesy U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command Public Affairs
(click on image above to visit the USAMMA website)
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of medical logistics operations. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, medical logisticians have worked tirelessly to ensure sufficient stocks of critical medical supplies for patients and medical staff, which is why PS Magazine sought an interview with one of the Army’s senior medical logistics leaders.
PS Magazine’s MSG Half-Mast recently had the opportunity to chat with MSG Stacey Varga, the sergeant major of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA), and discuss the importance of medical logistics. MSG Varga entered the Army in 1998. She completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and medical specialist advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, TX. Her varied assignments include: clinical NCOIC, 37th Engineer Battalion; platoon sergeant, 232rd Medical Battalion; senior division medical operations NCO at 82nd Airborne Division HQ; clinical NCO at West Point, New York; and, most recently, senior intelligence analyst of the National Center for Medical Intelligence. MSG Varga also deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom V and VI.
Master Sergeant, please describe the role that the U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency play in supporting the warfighter.
MSG Varga: The U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command (AMLC) and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) are an integral contributor to the National Defense Strategy’s prioritization of readiness. Everything we do is aimed at optimizing, projecting, and sustaining medical materiel capabilities, as well as the analysis of data. When Soldiers think of readiness, they often think first of their equipment and vehicles. Are they properly maintained? Do they have the spare parts they need? But readiness also includes Soldier readiness—their own individual health and wellbeing. The AMLC/USAMMA team ensures medical materiel is available and ready to better protect, support and prepare our troops at home station and downrange.
MSG Half Mast:
One of the command’s capabilities is vaccine and medication storage and distribution, which is of particular urgency in light of COVID-19. What are AMLC and USAMMA doing to support military operations during the pandemic?
MSG Varga: AMLC supports military operations during the pandemic through multiple channels. The first channel is building health care capacity worldwide through the support of medical logistics. AMLC expedited unit deployment packages—UDPs—to multiple locations, ensuring COVID-19-designated hospitals had the medical materiel to identify and treat COVID-19 patients. Our team is embedded with healthcare staffs and is analyzing first-wave COVID-19 medical logistics supply consumption and incident rates. Thus, through shared understanding of healthcare leaders’ needs, our team has tailored the UDP for distribution during a second wave of the pandemic, should that be necessary.
MSG Half Mast:
The next channel is building surveillance capabilities by acquiring, storing and distributing COVID- 19 test kits and personal protective equipment. Our team at Sierra Army Depot is taking the lead by facilitating the movement of all COVID-19 test kits and PPE worldwide. Overall, our team assists the Army by codifying military treatment facilities’ test kit requirements.
The third channel is to continue to acquire, manage, and build ventilators, ventilator support packages, and oxygen generating devices in support of the Army’s COVID-19 response, as well as FEMA’s response.
The last channel is in support of Operation Warp Speed, which entails the development of a vaccine. AMLC has already developed a COVID-19 vaccine consumables support package in support of force health protection measures.
Readiness is one of the Army’s highest priorities. How does USAMMA measure its impact on medical and health readiness?
MSG Varga: Readiness is the Army's #1 priority, and the USAMMA mission is in direct support of this priority. USAMMA supports several Army Medicine centralized management programs and war reserves. These programs rely greatly on support from the defense industrial base to set and open operational theaters. Since 2007, USAMMA has provided centralized management for the Army Surgeon General's Medical Materiel Readiness Program, which consists of Class VIII (i.e., medical materiel). The MMRP is stored and maintained at Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, California. On a quarterly basis, USAMMA biomedical maintenance engineers perform technical inspections and calibration on biomedical equipment, ensuring its continual readiness to support ongoing and contingency operations. USAMMA also leverages its depots and forward sites to provide contingency stocks.
MSG Half Mast:
Do you see a big change in how the Army has addressed medical logistics and materiel since you entered the Army over 20 years ago?
MSG VARGA: Army medical logistics concepts have changed over time, as have the drivers to readiness. Virtual platforms have made ordering and tracking medical materiel easier; they’ve also made fulfilling that demand easier, even though it’s expanded greatly over time.
MSG Half Mast:
I really started noticing changes in medical logistics as the United States entered into Iraq and Afghanistan. The focus shifted to make medical logistics more integral to warfighting, not just at the tactical level but also strategically. This evolution is captured in the Medical Logistics (MEDLOG) concept. MEDLOG is fully a subset of the sustainment warfighting function and acquires, stores, and distributes Class VIII (medical products) and specialized logistics services under all operational conditions. MEDLOG is an essential component of the DOD's operational capabilities, as well as intrinsic to the Army Medical Department's (AMEDD's) capabilities. MEDLOG ensures medical supplies are available when and where needed, medical equipment functions and treatment facilities are resourced.
What are some topics or lessons learned you would discuss with junior enlisted Soldiers who are entering into medical logistics and related career fields?
MSG VARGA: My recent assignment to USAMMA has opened my eyes to opportunities that are available to junior enlisted personnel in medical logistics and related career fields. In addition to learning their specific jobs and performing them exceptionally every day, I recommend Soldiers:
- Find a mentor to help map their career in the early stages.
- Build an understanding of how their contributions fit in the scheme of medical logistics and medical materiel management, particularly in support of the sustainment
- Seek every opportunity to grow their technical expertise, such as the Medical Logistics Management Internship Program (MLMIP) or working with industry. While these
might come later in their careers, it’s never too early to prepare for them by ensuring they accomplish any prerequisites.
- Be innovative. Influence innovation and effectiveness within their given organization, as well as outside their organization.