Materiel and installation readiness are the reasons U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) exists. When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened our Soldiers, civilians and families, AMC leveraged the full force of the materiel enterprise in this fight. Our mission was clear—to protect our workforce and our families; combat and prevent the spread of the coronavirus; and accomplish our worldwide mission. AMC synchronizes, integrates and operationalizes the capabilities of our major subordinate commands, providing installation and materiel readiness to meet current, future and contingency requirements.
As our focus shifted to support the fight against COVID-19, AMC and its 10 major subordinate commands provided support to civil authorities through the Army and DOD’s whole-of-government response to the virus.
AMC is doing its part to support the country’s shared vision and fight against the spread of COVID-19 and has implemented several measures throughout its offices, garrisons, depots, ammunition plants and arsenals to protect our workforce while meeting mission requirements for the Army and the nation. These efforts can be summarized in three different categories: producing materiel, moving supplies and taking care of our people.
Several of our organic industrial base facilities are producing, repairing and repurposing equipment, from sewing machines to manufacturing equipment, to augment the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other potentially life-saving medical equipment. One example of this is the work being done by artisans at Joint Munitions Command, who have produced more than 70,000 cloth face coverings and 2,300 gallons of hand sanitizer, which are vital for Army personnel to continue their mission-essential work. Our workforce responded to the new demands while supporting Army top priorities.
While AMC is using existing organic industrial base facilities and equipment, AMC is also using additive manufacturing processes to design and 3D print essential parts and equipment. The Rock Island Arsenal – Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center’s Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence will produce more than 1 million testing swabs on two printers by the end of the year, for use by DOD personnel, thus reducing the demand for commercially available swabs that can be used for the general public.
Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) has provided communications and electronics expertise to many emergency COVID-19 requests from different Army organizations. Through CECOM’s subordinate Army Medical Logistics Command (AMLC), it has distributed PPE and essential medical supplies, including surgical masks, N95 respirator masks, gloves, surgical gowns, hand sanitizer, touchless infrared thermometers and specimen collection kits, to troops overseas in some of the hardest hit regions. Also, Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania collaborated with AMLC medical maintenance technicians to establish the design requirements for producing the initial prototypes, and then sourced the electronic components, to build power supplies for ventilators. Our artisans utilized their unique backgrounds to focus on what the country needed in response to the pandemic.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of getting supplies where they are needed, at the right time. TACOM’s Sierra Army Depot in California is directly contributing to the COVID-19 response through the reception, storage and shipment of test kits and PPE. In late April, the depot began receiving millions of pieces of equipment, including gowns, surgical masks and face coverings, shoe covers, surgical caps, gloves, eye protection, face shields, hand sanitizer, thermometers, collection kits and test kits. Also, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command’s Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania produced medical isolation gowns for a Pennsylvania-based health care system as part of a public-private partnership.
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) coordinated more than 200 line-haul, or freight, movements of critical medical units, equipment and supplies as part of the COVID-19 response. In addition, the command executed deployment and distribution operations at strategic seaports in the U.S. and overseas while also supporting sustainment requirements, often exceeding 1,000 supply containers per week, for the Defense Logistics Agency, Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Defense Commissary Agency. The SDDC workforce balanced COVID-19 missions with its support of DEFENDER-Europe 20, demonstrating its ability to project strategic readiness. DEFENDER-Europe 20 was designed as a deployment exercise to build strategic readiness in support of the U.S. National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives. Although the exercise was scaled back in response to COVID-19, SDDC moved more than 3,000 pieces of equipment through multiple seaports from the United States to Europe.
Contracting has also played a key role. The Army Contracting Command (ACC) awarded and oversaw contracts, completed thousands of contracting and government purchase card actions, and mobilized teams in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 14 locations around the country, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas and other cities.
Outside of the U.S., AMC is also working with U.S. Army Security Assistance Command to provide medical supplies and materials to our allies and partners overseas. One example of this is a foreign military sales case that includes COVID-19-related prevention materials, including masks and surgical gowns, for the Afghanistan National Army.
TAKING CARE OF OUR PEOPLE
While supporting the COVID-19 fight, we continued taking care of our workforce and their families. Like many across the Army, our workforce has been using telework and work flexibilities. At the headquarters, we have maximized telework, so there are limited staff in the building. As in other Army organizations, those who work in the building are wearing face coverings in common areas and are maintaining social distance at all times. Those working from home are able to have alternative work schedules, allowing flexibility for caregivers and parents to balance their work and home lives.
We have empowered our major subordinate commands to make similar decisions for their staff members, as each circumstance is different. By nature of the production lines and facilities within the organic industrial base, much of the artisan workforce already had been working within the recommended social distancing guidelines before the pandemic, allowing them to continue their critical operations and maintain a healthy working environment. Some facilities have implemented more steps to maintain a healthy working environment, such as teleworking to the maximum extent possible, adding or staggering shifts, installing Plexiglas barriers to work stations and issuing PPE to the workforce.
AMC continued to build Army readiness by supporting Soldier training at installations during the pandemic. Installation Management Command has continuously evaluated facility capacity and implemented mitigation strategies to ensure there is enough room to receive trainees and maintain adequate capacity for quarantine and isolation, as well as holding capacity for Soldiers who completed training and are awaiting transportation to their units or follow-on training locations.
Army Sustainment Command, together with ACC’s Mission and Installation Contracting Command, utilized the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program to establish life support areas for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, and Fort Benning, Georgia, in early April. The life support areas provide overflow capacity, housing Army recruits and trainees because of COVID-19 movement restrictions. Typically, services include billeting, food service, showers, latrines, power generation, fresh water production and gray/black water management. The camps reduced the risk of the trainees being exposed to COVID-19 before arrival at their new duty station.
Taking care of our people extends outside of the workspaces. AMC is responsible for four of the five quality-of-life priority initiatives set by the chief of staff of the Army: housing, child care, spouse employment and permanent change-of-station (PCS) moves. Despite the pandemic, we are taking steps to make sure housing is clean, safe and ready for Soldiers and families. The Army has recently hired 107 housing management specialists and established responsive 24-hour hotlines at each installation for housing issues. AMC and the Army also worked with private housing companies to improve housing. Those companies are on track to invest up to an additional $2.8 billion for Army housing over the next five years, and these investments will result in 3,800 new homes and nearly 18,000 renovations of homes at Army installations.
Outside of the home, roughly 67 percent of morale, welfare and recreation programs and services are open at full or reduced capacity, including child development centers, school age centers, fitness centers and Army Community Services programs and offices. Also, Army leaders have joined DOD in continuing to address spouse employment during the pandemic through virtual hiring fairs and other initiatives. We will remain focused on caring for our people and improving quality of life, because our people are our No. 1 priority.
COVID-19 impacted permanent change-of-station moves, and our workforce helped Soldiers and their families to ensure a safe and seamless move. From health protection levels changing at garrisons and stay-at-home orders, to passport and visa delays, the Army met the challenges of the 2020 PCS season, safely completing more than 72,000 moves with quality assurance inspections on 97 percent of those moves. Also, to aid in the safe PCS for service members, civilians and families, moving companies are ensuring their employees wear face coverings, reducing crew sizes to enable social distancing, routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces and practicing good hand hygiene.
The bottom line is that while AMC responds to the pandemic, the command is working to improve quality of life for Soldiers and their families, teaming with private housing companies to improve living conditions, maximizing the availability and affordability of child care and youth services, increasing opportunities and facilitating employment of Army spouses, and providing timely, quality service to Soldiers throughout the PCS process.
AMC also has not lost sight of its worldwide missions. Equipment fieldings impacted by COVID-19 happened virtually or were rescheduled. We did not close the doors on the organic industrial base. AMC continued to meet production requirements.
During this time, AMC also made strides in financial management. In October, it expanded its financial management mission as the U.S. Army Financial Management Command assumed the Army’s military pay mission from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
While providing materiel and installation readiness, AMC has embraced the regionally aligned readiness and modernization model, or REARMM. AMC will work in conjunction with Army Forces Command to create the Modernization Displacement and Repair Site initiative, improving efficiencies, accelerating divestiture operations and allowing new equipment fielding across the Army to increase.
As we navigate the uncertainties of this pandemic, one thing is clear. AMC will keep doing what it does best—taking care of our people and supporting the warfighter.
For more information, visit www.amc.army.mil to learn about AMC’s mission and priorities.
COL. MATT HOEFER is an aerospace and occupational medicine physician currently assigned as the command surgeon for Army Materiel Command. He previously served as the command surgeon for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. He holds a doctorate in osteopathic medicine from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences; a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; a Masters of Public Health from the University of Texas Medical Branch; and a B.A. in biology and pre-medicine with a minor in history, Saint John’s University.
Col. William B. Johnson serves as the AMC G-3 Chief of Operations Division. He previously served as deputy director for Installation Management Command – Pacific, Installation Management Command’s regional command for the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. His military education includes the Armor Officer Basic Course, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Cavalry Leaders Course, Basic Airborne School and Pathfinder School. He holds a master’s degree in military arts and sciences from the U.S. Air Command and Staff College and completed a Senior Service College Fellowship at Georgetown University.