SAGAMI GENERAL DEPOT, Japan -- As competition heats up in the Indo-Pacific region, one team has made it a personal mission to ensure how a combined and joint force will be medically ready for future pandemics, crises or conflicts. That team is the U.S. Army’s 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support) under the leadership of Major Gen. Michael Place.
The Indo-Pacific has been referred to as the most consequential theater during the most consequential time in our history. As this message reverberates throughout the halls of Capitol Hill and the Pentagon, the 18th MEDCOM commanding general is already in the field getting eyes on the numerous medical assets throughout the DoD’s largest geographic area of operation.
Aside from visiting the various military hospitals, clinics and blood depots during his battlefield circulation to South Korea and Japan, he also inspected the U.S. Army’s prepositioned stocks (APS4) at Sagami General Depot. The 2,500,000 sq. ft. facility in Sagamihara, Japan, provides a wide variety of medical equipment and supplies in support of the Joint force. Place’s medical logistics team conducted an inventory and assessed the condition of medical assets available, finding them to be in the highest state of readiness.
Maj. Tanishia Greene, 18th Medical Command’s chief of logistics, explained the significance of the APS4 medical gear and how it could be used in support of regional contingencies. ”Effectively managed and positioned medical equipment and supplies are a force multiplier,” she said. “If medical equipment or supplies are not properly maintained during peacetime, there will be significant challenges during contingency operations, with casualties potentially outpacing the medical logistics systems. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Place clearly understood the importance of testing medical equipment and unit readiness when he directed to have a portion of an Army Prepositioned Field Hospital drawn and established as part of Orient Shield, an annual bilateral field training exercise with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The U.S. Army Reserve’s 311th Field Hospital from Blacklick, Ohio, was the team selected to exercise the process of an APS draw and then transport it to and set it up in a somewhat unorthodox location. The 374th Medical Group hospital front parking lot was turned into a fully operational Army 32-bed Combat Support Hospital overnight on Yokota Air Base, Japan.
The U.S. Army Japan surgeon, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency and the 403rd Army Field Support Battalion - Northeast Asia at Sagami General Depot ensured that the 311th Field Hospital Soldiers had all the necessary synchronization and equipment to complete the hospital draw and setup. Making sure every bit of equipment is on hand is essential to be able to expeditiously draw equipment in forward-deployed areas in Japan and the Indo-Pacific region if wartime or contingency operations were to happen.
Place said, “The idea is that you make sure you have all of the supplies and equipment available to you in theater already so that you can respond rapidly when called upon to save lives.”
Greene explained how 18th MEDCOM plans to support and work logistical problem sets on behalf of all medical units in the theater, “We are advocating for resources and policy updates at the Department of Army-level that will enhance a variety of medical unit’s ability to effectively support the Warfighter.”
The lessons learned from the 311th FH drawing the 32-bed CSH will directly inform what 18th MEDCOM needs to advocate for in the future.
The Sagami General Depot’s $13 million medical equipment exchange represented more than the speed at which the Army can set up a combat support hospital overseas. It highlighted the coordination efforts involved in planning, mobilizing, moving and establishing a medical facility.
Place highlighted where 18th MEDCOM fits into the process, “We work at the operational to strategic level for Army Medicine. We are a planning headquarters, who will ensure our extremely talented medical professionals link up with state of the art and fully operational equipment in order to deliver life-saving care on the battlefield.”
The 18th Medical Command (DS) coordinates health system support, medically sets the theater, improves medical system outcomes with allies and partners, and executes theater medical command and control that enables Joint and Combined forces to win in the Indo-Pacific.