DULMEN, Germany -- Building the bench of confident and competent Army medical equipment maintainers takes a commitment to continuous training -- a bedrock principle of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency.
Expert-level biomedical equipment specialists, known as BMETs, from USAMMA’s Medical Maintenance Operations Divisions recently completed a mission to the Army’s Prepositioned Stocks site in Germany, known as APS-2, to support and train unit Soldiers and civilians.
Leaders said this type of training is essential to readiness.
“The depot repairers make an explicit effort to teach and mentor the Soldiers, while they work side by side on the same make and model of medical equipment that … [they] will be expected to service, calibrate and repair while deployed,” said Tim Molloy, an equipment specialist for USAMMA’s Medical Maintenance Management Directorate.
Especially in forward-deployed environments, medical maintenance readiness levels can be challenged by high turnover of personnel and younger, inexperienced Soldiers who must shoulder large maintenance roles.
To help counteract that, USAMMA, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, sends its subject-matter experts to supplement efforts to calibrate and repair life-saving medical devices, while providing valuable “hands on” training to Soldiers in the biomedical equipment specialist field, also known by their military occupational specialty code, 68A.
The team sent to Germany -- with two BMETs part of USAMMA’s Forward Repair Activity-Maintenance, or FRA-M -- included specialists in pulmonary and imaging equipment, as well as two general technicians.
Two deployed from USAMMA’s depot in Tracy, California, along with one each coming from depots at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania.
Pfc. Danielle Fincannon, who is assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe, another AMLC direct reporting unit located in Germany, trained with the team during the mission at APS-2.
Fincannon said she trained with the depot-level techs on pulmonary, X-ray and optical equipment, as well as several other systems.
“It has definitely made me more confident in my BMET career,” she said. “I learned new ways to troubleshoot and provide maintenance, and I continue to grow my skills with each new piece of equipment I use.”
Integrating the forward-deployed medical materiel centers and active-duty 68A Soldiers into USAMMA’s medical maintenance cycles provides opportunities for both organizations.
The idea is similar to an apprenticeship program, in which 68As receive critical on-the-job training in different disciplines, including radiology, laboratory, pulmonary and anesthesia equipment. The approach also provides Soldiers with increased confidence and self-assurance in their ability to service complex medical devices and systems, Molloy said.
“The program provides great experience for (U.S. Forces Command’s) Soldiers and provides USAMMA with an increase in capacity,” he said.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Anthony Keane, clinical engineering warrant officer stationed at USAMMC-E who helped plan the operation, underscored the importance of partnership, shared knowledge and continued skill development.
“This mission is an opportunity for USAMMA and USAMMC-E to strengthen relations, collaborate and develop expert technicians,” he said.
USAMMC-E staff sent on this mission were relatively new technicians, Keane said, so USAMMA’s expertise, especially for deployed overseas units that often have high turnover rates, afforded an opportunity for subject-matter experts to teach and mentor future experts.
“At the core level of being both a (BMET) Soldier and Army civilian, we have great potential to practice our craft in austere environments and in harm’s way,” Keane said. “We must preserve and improve our technical and tactical acumen of our BMETs and this is an exact model.”