FORT DETRICK, Md. -- Jack Rosarius has devoted his entire 42-year career with the U.S. Army to the medical maintenance enterprise.
But he almost didn’t.
“I actually enlisted as airborne infantry,” Rosarius recalled. “But a friend of mine who was in the Army, he said airborne infantry is not for you.”
Rosarius is glad he took his friend’s advice and so are his colleagues and coworkers, who described him as a leader, mentor and teammate -- not to mention one of the Army’s premiere subject matter experts in the clinical engineering field.
“Jack Rosarius exemplifies the best of the Army Civilian Corps, with a career spanning multiple conflicts and wars,” said Col. Lynn Marm, a former U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency commander who has known Rosarius for close to two decades.
“His reputation is hard won and the result of distinguished service to Army Medicine, both on active duty and as a civil servant,” she said.
Rosarius, 60, admits he “didn’t have a clue about medical maintenance” when he enlisted in 1978 at the age of 17, but he quickly embraced the profession and became an expert in the field, dedicating himself to the well-being of warfighters.
On Dec. 18, colleagues and friends collectively recognized Rosarius during a retirement ceremony at Fort Detrick. His 42 years of continuous Army service began with 21 years in active duty that included deployments in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“Today is not about me,” Rosarius said. “It’s about me saying thank you to you all.”
Throughout his career, Rosarius, who has served as director of USAMMA’s Medical Maintenance Management Directorate, or M3D, for the majority of his civilian years, has made a positive impact on many Soldiers and coworkers who have served alongside him.
“His approach to everything he does is for the betterment of humanity, the country and the organization and people around him,” said Kevin Culihan, deputy director of M3D. “The one word that defines him best is duty.
“He continuously distinguishes himself through extraordinary public service,” Culihan said. “It is his duty to continually lead by example, doing the right thing and taking care of people always.”
Military to civilian
Rosarius was born in Heidelberg, Germany, where his father worked after serving three years in the Army.
As a teenager, Rosarius quickly got back to his roots when he started his own Army career. His first duty station after completing basic combat training was at the same hospital in Heidelberg where his parents welcomed him to the world.
Later, he served at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe, also located in Germany, in two different roles in MEDSOM, short for Medical Supply Optical and Maintenance, units over a four-year period.
From there, he returned to the United States, serving at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania and then for USAMMA at Fort Detrick before his deployment during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.
USAMMA and USAMMC-E are both direct reporting units to Army Medical Logistics Command.
His final stop before his return to Fort Detrick as a civilian was at Moncrief Army Community Hospital in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He retired at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3 in 1999.
Moving back to Fort Detrick, Rosarius made his home in Frederick, Maryland, with his wife, Dawn, who currently serves as principal assistant for acquisition at U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command.
“The truth is, I had no intent of working for the government again, but my wife was here,” he said. “We actually had an offer from a company that wanted to hire us both,” but she had just entered civil service and wasn’t ready to leave.
Good thing for USAMMA, where Rosarius has worked for his entire civilian career spanning another 21 years, essentially in the same position. As director of medical maintenance, his experience includes everything from maintaining equipment to performing technology assessments to developing policy and doctrine at all echelons, from unit to depot levels.
“In retrospect, it’s great having a noble cause; something more than just making money,” Rosarius said. “It gives you satisfaction. I’m glad life unrolled the way it has.”
During his civilian career at USAMMA, many Soldiers have come and gone, but few leave without stories of Rosarius’ impact in one way or another.
Col. Bradley Ladd, deputy chief of staff for operations at AMLC, said Rosarius has been a mentor to him over the past five years working together.
“He is one of the keys to my success in the military,” Ladd said. “Mr. Rosarius has shaped the medical maintenance landscape over his career to guarantee the readiness of our force to fight and win our nation’s conflicts.
“He is a selfless leader who cares deeply about people,” Ladd added, “and he will do anything in order to help his employees, peers and supervisors, both professionally and personally.”
Above everything else, Rosarius said that “being a Soldier was my calling.”
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I loved being a Soldier. And unlike a lot of people, when I look back, almost all of my favorite memories are being in the field, being deployed. I really enjoyed that environment.”
Rosarius said he always enjoyed the deployment environment because of the men and women to his left and right, all focused on the same mission.
“And when you achieve the mission, there’s a strange satisfaction,” he said. “There’s nowhere else you get that, and that commitment from the people other than from that environment.”
In addition to his active-duty deployment during the Gulf War, Rosarius also had the opportunity to deploy as a civilian through his work at USAMMA, joining forward-deployed units to augment and train medical maintainers on the ground.
“I felt like a Soldier again when I was over there … handing off hospitals, maintaining hospitals,” he said. “It was almost like being back in the Army.”
Marm said Rosarius “is not defined solely by technical expertise,” adding that he’s the type of leader who “moves to the sound of the guns” and sets an example for others.
“Jack is an innovator, leading the clinical engineering field through multiple evolutions driven by the increasing sophistication of medical equipment, clinical practice and the arrival of telehealth,” she said. “He has ensured that Army military and civilian clinical engineers keep pace with the constantly evolving cyber and technical aspects of deployable medical systems.”
Rosarius’ greatest contribution to the military? “Countless lives saved on the battlefield,” Marm said.
Highest skilled technicians
Medical logisticians and maintenance technicians are known as problem solvers. Rosarius certainly earned that title during his career.
Culihan said Rosarius recognized the shortcomings in the past maintenance support structure for deployable medical formations, leading to efforts to create the Army Medical Department’s Maintenance Sustainment Program.
“He coordinated for resources and funding and implemented a support structure to enhance medical maintenance across the operational force,” Culihan said.
A major improvement credited to Rosarius was the establishment of USAMMA’s Forward Repair Activity-Medical, or FRA-M, team.
Rosarius said the FRA-M was built “out of necessity” in 2007 after ongoing struggles for field-level maintainers to keep CT machines in good working order.
“Nobody could keep them up,” he said of the CT machines. “And I knew we had the highest skilled technicians anywhere in the DOD.
“So the concept was -- why don’t we take our technicians, make them the best possible, let them focus on a commodity and we can rotate them into the theater to maintain equipment that might be too complex for unit-level maintainers.”
Three different divisions were set up at each of USAMMA’s medical maintenance depots -- one focused on laboratory equipment, another on anesthesia and pulmonary devices, and the third for imaging equipment.
The FRA-M initiative boosted availability rates for CT machines, among other devices, from 55% to over 90%, Culihan said, crediting Rosarius for driving the effort.
Deployed teams work through different forward-operating bases, maintaining and calibrating equipment, but also training unit-level maintainers.
“So when they leave, they leave with not only working equipment, but a much more competent technician on the ground,” Rosarius said. “To me, they’re kind of the heart and soul of what we’ve built.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Wendell Johnson, 670A consultant to the Army Surgeon General, called Rosarius a “visionary” for his work with the FRA-M teams.
“[Soldiers] only kick down doors because they’re confident that those devices are going to be there to keep them alive,” said Johnson, who was the guest speaker at Rosarius’ retirement ceremony.
Marm added that Rosarius’ vision is now “hard wired” into doctrine, with teams supporting not just Southwest Asia as initially intended, but also across Europe and the Pacific.
“Since then, Jack’s unwavering focus on readiness has resulted in an unprecedented training and equipping posture of the Army’s medical war reserve program,” she said.
While it’s usually not one of the first things people think of, medical maintenance is an essential part of the overall mission of the U.S. military.
Rosarius said it’s just as important as a clinician rendering care.
“When you have a patient that goes into the OR, they’re giving their whole life to that clinician,” he said. “But what they don’t know is, they’re also giving it these technicians. Almost every device, whether it’s life-sustaining, diagnostic, therapeutic, whatever -- our folks were the last to touch.
“The truth of the matter is, they are part and parcel to making sure those patients come back out alive,” Rosarius added. “I like to think of these folks as silent heroes. They are absolutely part of that medical continuum.”
As the U.S. faced enemies in the Middle East that adapted their methods for injuring and killing service members, Marm said Rosarius’ influence and advocacy was a catalyst for continued investment in medical depots and equipping programs, as well as the design of sets, kits and outfits and training that “keeps the promise of life-saving care to America’s sons and daughters into the future.”
She pointed to the case of Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, the first U.S. Soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to survive a quadruple amputation and first person to receive a bilateral arm transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“There are many stories like this one, all possible because of medical logistics operating as part of a battlefield system of care not replicated in any other Army in the world,” Marm said. “The vital supply of medication, supplies and equipment enabled life-saving point of injury care and evacuation to battlefield surgery.”