Organic industrial base supports Army COVID-19 response
By Megan GullyApril 27, 2020
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Without losing focus on readiness and support to the warfighter, and at the direction of Army senior leaders, several of the Army’s Organic Industrial Base’s depots, arsenals and ammunition plants are assisting the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.Managed by the Army Materiel Command, OIB facilities across the country are utilizing assembly lines, production tools and 3-D printing capabilities to produce, repair or repurpose equipment to address global shortages of personal protective equipment and other potentially lifesaving medical equipment for the Department of Defense.Engineers at Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center in Illinois are using the center’s additive manufacturing capabilities, also known as 3-D printing, to produce ventilator cases, while exploring other potential products.“Rock Island Arsenal-JMTC Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence has had the opportunity to help contribute to COVID-19 support efforts in producing repair parts for Army ventilators,” RIA-JMTC Commander Col. Martin Hendrix III said. “Additive manufacturing really lets us be nimble in how we can respond to Army needs and this is a great example of that.”Hendrix said the JMTC workforce is continuing to explore ideas of how the center can support the government’s response to COVID-19, including potentially printing swabs for test kits.“We’re still working the realm of the possible on what can be done, and the team has looked through good ideas,” he said. “From the very beginning of this we’ve had people pulling designs. All the way down to no-touch door handles that we’re installing around the center and provided to other commands on the island. The team is really going after anything they can to help with the process.”Involved in the daily repair of ventilators are the Army’s biomedical equipment specialists with the Army Medical Materiel Agency’s three stateside depot-level maintenance facilities at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and the Defense Distribution Center in California. At each depot, specialists are repairing and returning ventilators to military hospitals and medical units.“We’re taking the vents, calibrating them, putting in needed parts, doing a thorough inspection and sending them back out with all the accessories and consumables so they are ready for use right out of the box,” said Tom Fortner, a technician assigned to the USAMMA-Tobyhanna.Army medical maintenance teams at each location are prioritizing not only the calibration and repair of ventilators, but also oxygen generators, suction apparatus and patient monitors to support COVID-19 response efforts. Fortner said the teams have been turning these devices around in record time. He said some devices that only need minor fixes or checks are repaired and returned in just hours.Also contributing to the fight, Crane Army Ammunition Activity in Indiana and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma are repurposing raw materials to produce and locally distribute hand-sanitizer.“This is a team effort between Crane, McAlester and the Joint Munitions Command Headquarters to contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” CAAA Commander Col. Stephen Dondero said. “Within days, our people designed and assembled a sanitizer manufacturing line drawing on their expertise in munitions production. It demonstrates the OIB’s ability to flex to a point of need at a moment’s notice, and I’m extremely proud of everyone’s contributions to this. The line has proven successful and we are ready for full-rate production, allowing us to protect our people while also supporting an overburdened supply system to get a critical product into the hands of the professionals that need it.”Other OIB facilities are contributing to the government response by producing cloth face masks, such as Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas and Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania.“Pine Bluff Arsenal has stepped up to the challenge of producing cloth face coverings for the JMC and AMC enterprise. The fine men and women who have worked tirelessly on this project need to be commended for their efforts,” PBA Deputy to the Commander Roch Byrne said. “They have worked together with great support across PBA and our JMC leadership to create an initial prototype face covering that has evolved into what is currently being produced and sent out to the installations. It is indeed an honor to be called upon during the COVID-19 response and be able to deliver a quality product to protect our Soldiers and civilians.”PBA has already produced more than 5,500 masks and continues to complete more each day. Many of the face coverings have been distributed to other OIB facilities, allowing employees to comply with the Department of Defense guidance that Soldiers, family members, Army civilian employees and contractors should follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines on the use of cloth face coverings in public settings or where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.