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DHA Medical Logistics Provides Critical Supplies at Home and Abroad

Image of DHA Medical Logistics Provides Critical Supplies at Home and Abroad. David Burnett, a civilian material handler at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, operates a forklift inside Walter Reed's warehouse, Sept. 29, 2023. Material handlers ensure orderly production and distribution of products by pulling orders from inventory, delivering production materials where needed, and staging finished products for final distribution. Having adequate stockpiles of medical equipment and drugs is critical to the military’s readiness and beneficiary care, and medical logistics is the key to that readiness. (DOD photo by Ricardo J. Reyes).

“Infantry wins battles, logistics wins wars,” said U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Historically, it’s the trio of “beans, bullets, and bandages” that sustains warfighter readiness on the ground and on the deck plate.

It’s the Defense Health Agency Medical Logistics Division that provides the three “B’s” in times of peace and conflict. MEDLOG is responsible for the purchase, storage, and management of medical, surgical, and pharmaceutical, supplies and equipment needed to support doctors, nurses, and dental care providers around the world. This $11 billion annual investment supports combatant commands, the Military Health System, and patient care for 9.6 million service members, retirees, and family members.

“DHA MEDLOG is in a great position to deliver on our mission to support the MHS. We’re laser-focused on all things logistics to maintain the ready medical force needed to take care of our patients and families,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Eskinder “Alex” Dagnachew, director of DHA Medical Logistics J-4 directorate. Medical logisticians and biomedical equipment technicians turn MEDLOG’s mission into reality by delivering patient-centered logistics solutions to customers through the most effective end-to-end business processes from procurement of material and equipment through end use or disposal.

Kadena’s MEDLOG Role

Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, houses the Theater Lead Agent for Medical Materiel-Pacific. TLAMM-P is the hub for medical resupply and equipment maintenance to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (except Korea, which has its own TLAMM-P). INDOPACOM’s service area encompasses 36 nations, 105 million square miles, 15 time zones, and 52% of the world's population.

That means having to keep medical supplies and equipment “in a ready state at all times,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel Jackson, flight commander at Kadena Consolidated Storage and Distribution Center.

The Kadena Patient Movement Item Center houses 15,000 medical assets that include ventilators, wound vacs, infusion pumps, and “a host of other patient-care items rated safe to fly on fixed-wing aircraft during medical evacuations,” according to Jackson.

“The majority of these customers are mobile in nature, so they are in our theater for exercises, deployments, and humanitarian efforts, and range from brick-and-mortar military hospitals and clinics to forward operating bases and afloat ships,” she explained.

MEDLOG Means Always Ready

“It’s our job to ensure our provider teams have everything they need to address our patients’ needs effectively, not only here on Kadena but in vastly different patient-care environments throughout the theater, including embassies, remote areas, jungles, in-flight aircraft, and at-sea ships,” Jackson said.

Day-to-day logistics duties include supply operations, inventory control, health care technology management, facilities, and contracting support for the 525-member outpatient clinic, which cares for 13,000 active duty service members and dependents.

In-garrison care consists of “ordering supplies, maintaining stock levels in the clinic, performing contracting support for personnel and services, maintaining and fixing medical equipment, housekeeping services, and facilities renovation and maintenance.”

The MEDLOG team supports warfighter readiness “by allowing them to get the care they need to deploy at a moment’s notice,” Jackson said. “As the U.S. Air Force’s largest combat wing, Kadena has an incredible operations tempo with deployers and missions coming and going constantly.”

Kadena MEDLOG also supports multiple operational plans and services with the War Reserve Materiel and Theater Lead Agent for Medical Materiel-Pacific. These include 110 deployable capabilities that reach across INDOPACOM, such as “a 200-bed patient staging facility, expeditionary blood support, air transportable clinics, critical care air transport teams, aeromedical evacuation, special forces, and the U.S. Air Force radiation assessment team,” Jackson said.

Duties for that role include “rotating inventory for stock management and equipment calibration, adding or removing items as needed when capabilities are modified by the U.S. Air Force, and implementing these capabilities for missions, exercises, and deployment taskings,” she explained.

Kadena MEDLOG also provides strategic planning support to the INDOPACOM surgeon, the single integrated medical logistics manager-Pacific, and armed services regional headquarters staff.

Additionally, it sends biomedical equipment technician teams forward for equipment troubleshooting and support.

Walter Reed’s MEDLOG Team

Like Kadena, the 75 U.S. Army and U.S. Navy logistics personnel at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are involved in a wide range of activities supporting supply chain management, acquisition, and medical equipment management.

“MEDLOG helps maintain readiness by ensuring the right kinds of supplies and equipment are available at the time they’re needed by the clinicians providing patient care,” said Omar Jonathan C. Hiponia, WRNMMC deputy chief of logistics.

WRNMMC MEDLOG also maintains a stockpile of personal protective equipment and “other supplies that will allow the facility to continue its mission during a new pandemic and other contingencies,” said Hiponia.

“Even though these activities are performed in the background, daily medical care will not happen safely and effectively if they are not performed consistently,” Hiponia said.

“For example, an automated external defibrillator designed to treat those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest may not work properly due to a faulty battery. Performing preventive maintenance in accordance with a maintenance schedule will ensure the equipment is operational and safe to use when it’s needed.”

Hiponia drove home a point that teamwork is vital to the success of his operations.

“Military personnel, civilian employees, and contractors all play an integral part in the delivery of health care at military hospitals and clinics. Removing or not properly staffing one of these three legs will hurt the team’s ability to provide the best medical care possible.”

“Medical logistics is an ever-changing world of new technology and exciting medical breakthroughs that require us to be on the cutting edge,” Dagnachew said. DHA MEDLOG collaboration with the four services, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others “helps us tackle this challenge.”

In the end, “MEDLOG is everywhere, all at once, but you normally don’t see our faces,” Jackson said. “We keep the facility open and clean with the lights on, the trash taken out, supplies stocked and equipment working. You don’t normally think about us until something is missing or wrong, so we like when people don’t have to think about us much.”

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Last Updated: October 23, 2023
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