News: 551st Medical Logistics Company hosts semi-annual medical logistics conference
Story by Spc. Anthony Hooker
By Anthony Hooker
215th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – The 551st Medical Logistics Company hosted the second edition of the 56th's Multifunctional Medical Battalion's semi-annual medical logistical conference, Aug. 28-29, 2008, at Joint Base Balad's Eastside Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Center.
The 551st MLC, part of the 56th MMB, entertained over 100 personnel from 47 units. The conference's intent was to streamline the theater's medical logistical functions to provide better support to the warfighter. The theme of the conference focused on making it easier for Soldiers to submit for and receive products in a timely manner.
The 551st MLC, deployed from Ft. Lewis, Wash., shares responsibility of medical supply distribution with the 591st MLC and 153rd Medical Detachment (Blood Support). The 551st MLC's primary duty is to push supplies to initial care facilities, such as troop clinics, aid stations, and dental offices. However, there has been confusion by individual organizations on how equipment would be acquired and who would take responsibility for it.
Cpt. Shonda Thomas, commander of the 591st MLC and host of the inaugural MEDLOG conference in February, said the warehouse's customers needed to be taught how to use the logistical systems and what services the 56th MMB could provide.
"What needed to be addressed was 'Who do you take your guidance from?'," said Thomas. "Every single unit wanted to set up their own account directly to the Balad facility. The conference helped show the roles each unit has in theater."
Cpt. Marc Welde, commander of the 551st MLC, said after the inaugural conference in February, people liked the concept but felt more interaction would shore up any potential misunderstandings. Welde, a native of Ogden, Utah, said the primary feedback from visitors after the first conference was they wanted more face to face time networking, along with the opportunity to establish stronger relations with their military occupational skill counterparts.
In addition to briefings from each commodity area, customer service booths were set up with subject matter experts present to answer any questions one-on-one. Blood and optometry specialists were on site as well to offer their services and help customers understand what was within their units' means.
Conference leaders placed a spotlight on the importance of using forward distribution teams and contact repair teams, specifically their ability to satisfy some of the requests that are sent to JBB. Instead of overwhelming the central location with requests, teams strategically placed around Iraq would provide the same service and get supplies to customers in their region.
Sgt. Patrece Adams, the FDT leader at Contingency Operating Base Adder, said coming to the conference was the best way to raise her team's profile.
"Supplies from [United States Army Medical Materiel Centers in] Balad, [Southwest Asia-Qatar], and Germany can be delivered directly to a FDT location, which helps me get out items faster to customers," said Adams, a native of San Diego, Calif. "Being close means any issues can be resolved through our location. We can run reports, in addition to obtaining statuses on equipment and supplies."
Adams said they can also identify items for customers that were not requested.
"We get a lot of free issue from [Southwest Asia]," Adams said. "We can give our customers a heads-up . . . 'Here's what we got; here's what we can give you."
Adams said the bulk items are a big help to smaller groups like two-man support teams - teams that are usually given these supplies without requiring a formal order. Non-traditional units like military transition and logistical transition teams also benefit from the regional depots.
"A lot of MITT teams drive through Adder," said Adams. "They learn of our warehouse excess, come through, find what they want, take it and roll out."
Adams said customers are excited about the service, that the convenience is a welcome option for units swamped by the demands of their mission.
Cpt. Corretta Campbell, the 3rd Sustainment Command's (Expeditionary) chief MEDLOG officer, attended the conference and said it was wonderful to see people who provide for Soldiers.
"Bringing the logisticians and technical staff together confirms we are in one common pursuit . . . to ensure providers on the ground get what they need to persevere, save lives, and maintain health and welfare on the battlefield," said Campbell.
Campbell said being able to interact with key personnel such as FDTs confirm the systems are being adhered to.
"Units are eager to be better at their job," Campbell said. "We can't see the [results] on the command level but the user can give us up-to-date assessments through feedback."
Conference guests were treated to a social mixer after Day One meetings and given a tour of the medical supply warehouse the next day. After the walkthrough, visitors were given circuit training; four groups were established and traveled to four stations where warehouse personnel discussed and gave demonstrations of shipping, receiving, storing, and data processing.
Cpts. Gail Raymond and Lisa Wilson-Young were two guests at the conference. Both were happy to get the briefing and mission-specific training, but also used their social connection to build their resource base.
Raymond, a surgeon and medical logistician with the 10th Mountain Division, worked with Wilson-Young at another unit. Wilson-Young, the medical supply officer for the 7th Sustainment Brigade, said friendships and old work relationships create a comfort that only personal interaction can provide. Raymond agreed with her friend's assessment.
"Cpt. Wilson has a lot of knowledge," said Raymond. "Me being a new logistician, I have someone to reference."
Raymond added that she felt comfortable taking suggestions from someone she knew.
"I'm confident in Cpt. Wilson's experience and knowledge," said Raymond. "She knows doctrine and her answers won't be a guess."
Maj. Christopher Drum, the medical logistics officer for Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said the conference has done a great job of synchronizing medical logistics in Iraq.
"A lot of junior personnel are becoming better informed on their capabilities," said Drum. "Many may be on their first deployment and their home station may have never run a medical warehouse account. Here you can learn the proper way to set up an account automations system. You also have senior personnel like Sergeants major and chief warrant officers who are available to reach out and touch for guidance . . . and answer questions so you don't feel out of reach."
Welde said all the guests will leave the conference feeling more informed, but the true people benefiting will be the warfighter.
"This process gives Soldiers on the ground confidence to do their job, knowing that if they're injured, they will be taken care of," said Welde, a native of Ogden, Utah. "They know the people taking care of them have state of the art equipment and a reasonable way to acquire it."
This work, 551st Medical Logistics Company hosts semi-annual medical logistics conference, by SGT Anthony Hooker, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.