When the U.S. Army decides to send Soldiers into battle, they do not go alone.
Increasingly, military actions are joint, multi-service operations that often include coalition partners. U.S. allies are essential to effective modern warfare.
To help protect and build the readiness of coalition partners, the U.S. government offers a program called Foreign Military Sales. This program, organized by the U.S. State Department, authorizes the sale or exchange of services, supplies and training to international partners and organizations. The funding for the FMS program comes from both appropriated and non-appropriated funds.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, coordinates medically related FMS on behalf of the Army. USAMMA FMS country manager Patricia Pinnix said FMS has many benefits, including strengthening relationships with allies.
"We need to have allies in the areas where we're going to send our troops," said Pinnix. "We don't want to go to a place where we don't have any support. This strengthens the relationships with our foreign allies."
The USAMMA FMS team coordinates more than 100 cases for FMS each year. Each case is different, so Pinnix and her colleague Pilar Lopez have to navigate a myriad of processes to complete each FMS case in collaboration with the Defense Logistics Agency, DLA-Troop Support and other acquisition agencies. Their first step is to understand the full requirement using the total package approach.
Some cases take longer to implement based on the requirements and availability of product because the product may not be in stock, or it may require customization. Even the color of the product or case can change the timeline.
"They may already have the containers spray painted green," said Deputy Force Projection Director Linda Foltz. "If this one is going to another region or they need it spray-painted tan. So, it takes extra time."
FMS also takes steps to ensure the FMS package comes with everything the country might need, from power distribution to training for new medical devices. Throughout the entire process, the USAMMA FMS team ensures customers receive high-quality products.
"If we're going to provide items, we're going to make sure that those items meet all the requirements as if they were being used by U.S. Soldiers," said Pinnix.
Foltz added that FMS is really a team effort at USAMMA. While Pinnix and Lopez are the country managers for FMS medical cases, many other directorates within USAMMA help fulfill the orders -- from the teams building new sets to the medical maintenance depots that quality check and technically inspect each item before it ships out.
Pinnix said, "Sometimes a customer will come back and tell me, 'You'll never understand what this means to us. Because we got these Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs), lives were saved. Because you provided all this coordination for this MRI, lives are saved in this hospital.' People don't always say thank you...But when they do, it's so rewarding. It makes the job worthwhile."
Lopez also said they have seen the delivered equipment in the country in the evening news. The USAMMA team gets great satisfaction when they get that extra assurance that their products have been delivered and are being utilized.