FORT DETRICK, Md. -- The use of a “hybrid” training model has enabled the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency to continue a high level of support for Soldiers using a vital medical logistics information system despite operational changes as a result of COVID-19.
Trainers with USAMMA’s Business Support Office reacted quickly to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by augmenting its in-person training program for Theater Enterprise Wide Logistics Systems, or TEWLS, with virtual learning capabilities.
“There is just no substitute for in-person instruction when working through a complex deployment where multiple roles are to be fulfilled,” said Margaret Garguilo, TEWLS education team lead for USAMMA’s BSO.
TEWLS is an information system within the Defense Medical Logistics-Enterprise Solution portfolio that integrates multiple business processes, such as inventory management, warehouse management, kitting and financial management, across the enterprise or organized business activities into a single master database.
Before the pandemic, the team typically scheduled on-site and in-person sessions with a deploying unit. Travel restrictions and physical distancing requirements forced trainers to reexamine their training approach, initially going all virtual through the use of Microsoft Teams.
Later, the team was able to establish its “hybrid” formula that balanced precautionary measures with hands-on learning. Rather than the entire four-person team traveling, one or two would deploy to the unit while the other trainers participated virtually.
Garguilo said trainers work closely with unit commanders to ensure all COVID-19 safety measures are taken into account when personnel work on site with Soldiers, which allows the team to monitor participants, coordinate classroom logistics, work with IT support and establish rapport with the unit.
“It has been a very successful shift in our training approach,” she said.
Over the past year, the TEWLS training team at USAMMA, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, has completed 10 training events to support three deploying units, totaling 187 participants in Texas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Through the use of the new method, trainers are able to save on travel, increase safety amid the ongoing pandemic and maximize the Soldiers’ learning experience.
“The interaction with multiple instructors that are geographically dispersed introduces an interesting dynamic for the learner,” Garguilo said. “As well, working side by side with the commanders and Soldiers gives our team insight into readiness, areas of concern and firsthand feedback so we can adjust as needed.”
And speaking of feedback, Garguilo said it has been “tremendous” and beneficial as trainers continue looking at ways to improve and shape the training curriculum to better serve Soldiers.
A typical training cycle includes three different phases -- introductory training, advanced training and a refresher site visit. Many deploying Soldiers are required to fulfill multiple roles, Garguilo said, making the training even more vital to ensure readiness to support each mission.
“Unfortunately, we have learned the hard way that we must never skimp on training our Soldiers,” she said. “Mistakes are made when training is inadequate and poorly timed. This is one reason we have implemented our three-phase approach, which journeys through time with the unit, captures late arriving personnel and maximizes readiness. Phase three enables us to support the unit just before deployment.”
Todd Bishop, director of USAMMA’s BSO, credited Garguilo and the TEWLS training team for their flexibility and versatility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Peg has brilliantly led her team to adapt to the new limitations that COVID has placed on the Department of Defense,” Bishop said. “She and her team of trainers’ ability to quickly adapt ensured that medical logistics operations support for the deployed warfighter did not skip a beat.”