FORT DETRICK, Md. -- Aiming to identify gaps and potential solutions, Army Medical Logistics Command hosted a first-of-its-kind exercise Feb. 24-27, bringing together about 150 Soldiers from across the Army medical maintenance enterprise.
"We have all the right people here to talk and work medical maintenance, which is an important topic," AMLC Commander Col. Michael Lalor said during his opening remarks to kick off the event at Fort Detrick.
Participants included Soldiers and civilians representing numerous active-duty, National Guard, Army Reserve and Special Forces units.
The four-day table top exercise started with over a half-dozen informational briefs before attendees were broken into three working groups, each focusing on a different subject area. They included product support analysis, maintenance management and maintenance function.
Facilitators and participants were tasked with brainstorming gaps and recommendations on how to close those identified shortfalls in the medical maintenance system.
Over two days, the groups refined their findings, then presented them to Lalor and other leaders on Feb. 27.
Overarching gaps identified included a lack of capability and capacity to effectively implement and manage needed medical maintenance operations, as well as Class VIII not being fully integrated into the Army's larger supply network.
The groups proposed numerous tasks to work toward closing each gap, such as additional training, supplementing the workforce and policy overhauls.
"I think you really came away with some very meaty recommendations that will make a difference," said John Hall, deputy to the commanding general of Combined Arms Support Command. "I think this week has been well worth the time you've spent."
Over a dozen Army medical maintenance leaders attended the out-briefings for the event, sharing their opinions and recommendations to AMLC as they work toward changes that will benefit the entire enterprise under Army Materiel Command.
"As we train those folks out in the field, we also need to train our commanders to look at maintenance and the medical logistics side as well," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Wendell Johnson, medical logistics planner for Army Forces Command. "That's just as important."
In his closing remarks, Lalor emphasized the need to better "see" medical maintenance materiel and to analyze the scope of the overall enterprise, which some leaders said lacks manpower resources and support to keep up with its equipment inventory.
"You could have the greatest structure and greatest maintenance culture in the world with unlimited 68A's and 670A's, you name the particular job specialty," Lalor said. "We've got more equipment than those people can handle. I'll tell you that."
Like others, Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Michael K. Pyle said the event "has been a long time coming" for the medical community.
"And your team has really put on a great show," he said. "We've gotten a lot of things done here and it's definitely going in the right direction."
Participants spoke positively about the outcomes and overall direction to improve maintenance operations across the Army medical enterprise. Many expressed appreciation to AMLC leaders for organizing the event.
"It was a consolidation of experts that brought experience and innovative ideas to the working groups," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey W. Collins, Army capacity manager for the Fielded Force Integration Directorate at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "I'm really impressed with everything."
For years, medical logistics practices have remained largely unchanged while processes for other commodities have evolved, said Lt. Col. Robert Schultz, senior medical logistics planner for the Army's III Corps.
"It was good to get that many experts all together in the same room," he said. "This was an effective exercise and we've needed this for a long time."
Lalor thanked the participants and his AMLC team for organizing the landmark event for the first-year command, but also stressed that this was just a start for the overall medical maintenance mission.
"You're only as good as your next mission," he said. "And your next mission is to drive output from this."