REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Over the past seven months, the Army Materiel Command enterprise has supported Operation Warp Speed in standing up clinical trial facilities, contracting, transporting supplies and lending personnel and expertise.
Much of the work is being directed by the Operation Warp Speed team led by an Army leader who is very familiar to AMC. Gen. Gus Perna, former commanding general of AMC, was tapped by President Donald Trump in May to be the chief operating officer of OWS, which is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, private industry and academia.
Operation Warp Speed’s mission is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines as a part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
Army Sustainment Command, AMC’s face to the field, has played a major role supporting OWS since the early phases of the pandemic by standing up clinical trial facilities.
Brian Almonrode, ASC’s director of operations for the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP, said the command rapidly deployed specialized trailers fitted to meet specific requirements instituted by the Department of Health and Human Services.
To do this, ASC assembled a variety of expertise consisting of seven employees at the headquarters, three in the field and 14 members of the LOGCAP Support Brigade.
“We leveraged ASC’s global military logistics expertise to rapidly deploy trailers and accommodate the size and scope of vaccine trials,” said Almonrode.
Perna praised the LOGCAP program during the early months of the pandemic as the mission took shape.
The LOGCAP trailers are currently being used by AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna and Sanofi Pasteur as they continue to conduct Phase 3 clinical trials.
ASC worked with Army Contracting Command on the LOGCAP contracts and the Army Corps of Engineers in assuring trailers were in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to managing the LOGCAP contract, ACC also managed thousands of contracts contributing to the COVID-19 fight.
In seven months, the OWS partnership accelerated the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Perna and the OWS team will initiate vaccine distribution within 24 hours of emergency use authorization granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
OWS has 636 locations locked in for the initial vaccine delivery, following microplans submitted by all 64 jurisdictions and five federal entities.
Perna said he initiated the distribution of ancillary kits including syringes, needles and alcohol wipes so the jurisdictions will have what they need to administer the vaccine. To do this, OWS representatives contacted Tobyhanna Army Depot for support.
Within days, an experienced group of employee volunteers arrived at a distribution center in Maryland to streamline current warehousing and palletization efforts as well as process 200 million syringes and more than 40 million kits.
Marion Whicker, deputy chief of supply, production and distribution for OWS praised Tobyhanna Army Depot employees for their support. Whicker, whose permanent role is Executive Director of Integrated Logistics Support Center at Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, was selected for the temporary position with OWS based on her 30-plus years of defense and logistics expertise.
"We can’t thank Tobyhanna enough for standing up and supporting this critical mission,” said Whicker.
“The scale of OWS is unbelievable,” said Damian Edwards, the Tobyhanna Army Depot logistics management specialist supporting the mission.
“Overall, it feels good to know that we're doing our part. Our work is helping implement the framework for a successful vaccine rollout when the time comes,” he said.
U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, is working in collaboration with the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Health Care Division in collecting COVID-19 vaccine orders from all service branches and submitting them to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In preparation for the delivery of supplies, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is linking up interested truck providers with OWS’s distribution contractor to help ensure enough capacity is available to support effective and efficient distribution. Once delivered, USAMMA will track vaccine shipments from the vendor to military treatment facilities where it will be used to immunize troops as well as military beneficiaries in accordance to the DOD plan and priorities.
As the vaccine rollout process begins, Perna encouraged Americans to educate themselves about the vaccines and the approval process.
“Don’t allow one headline to determine what you’re going to do,” said Perna. “I encourage everybody, as individuals, to inform themselves and then make the decision that is best for you and your family.”
From contracting to transportation and personnel and logistical expertise, the materiel enterprise stands ready to support DOD, OWS and civil authorities as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.