FORT DETRICK, Md. -- In one of his first assignments as a biomedical equipment specialist, Jorge Magana quickly learned the importance of his job in a very personal way.
Magana, then a young enlistee with a baby on the way, was placed in the labor and delivery ward of a small military hospital at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There, he was responsible for maintaining all medical devices on the floor, ensuring they were ready for use in the care of expectant mothers, including his own wife.
“It taught me the importance of making sure that when you touch a medical device, just imagine your family member on the other side of that device,” he said. “From then on, every time I touched a medical device, I thought, ‘this is going on someone’s family member.’”
It was an experience Magana carried with him throughout his career as he prepares to participate in an alumni panel discussion Sept. 26, hosted by the U.S. Army 6th Medical Logistics Management Center, his final duty unit before retirement from the Army in 2020.
Among the panelists, Magana and Pete Ramos, also a former member of the 6th MLMC, have over 50 years in combined active-duty service before they retired in recent years. The panel will give current Soldiers who are approaching retirement themselves a chance to discuss their experiences, hear transition success stories and get advice on their next steps.
For Magana and Ramos, both now working at Army Medical Logistics Command, continuing to serve as Army civilians was an easy decision.
“There are a lot of opportunities to continue serving, and if you have the skillset and knowledge to do it, you really should consider it,” said Ramos, who retired at lieutenant colonel in 2018. “It is still serving, even if you’re no longer in uniform.”
Like Magana, Ramos, too, draws on many of the experiences he had as a Soldier. He saw firsthand the challenges faced by medical logisticians in the field, and it’s something that he said he is working to correct today as a logistics management specialist for AMLC.
“The thing that I knew how to do was something the Army needed at the time,” Ramos said. “I still think it does.”
Their stories are just two of many among Army retirees who continue to serve as civilians. Magana, a retired chief warrant officer four, emphasized that the skills and experiences Soldiers accumulate over their active-duty years often translate to successful and fulfilling careers in civilian service.
And being able to continue serving the nation and supporting current Soldiers and their families make it all the more rewarding.
“Your experience is unique,” said Magana, who currently serves as director of the Medical Maintenance Management Directorate, or M3D, at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, an AMLC direct reporting unit. “When you get out and you start exploring, you’ll be able to leverage those experiences to the success of the organization you join, whether that’s in the private sector or through civilian service.”
Magana said the opportunity to continue serving as director of medical maintenance for USAMMA was his dream job, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
“To me, in my mind, that was a pinnacle position for a maintainer that still enjoys the Army, what it’s about and believes in what we’re doing -- actually serving and saving lives,” he said.
Ramos, a former deputy commander for support at USAMMA prior to his retirement, has been with AMLC since the command’s creation in 2019, when the former Medical Research and Materiel Command was dissolved, and parts of the organization were split between AMLC and the current Medical Research and Development Command.
With the establishment of AMLC as the Army’s premier medical logistics organization and life cycle management command for medical materiel, new policies and procedures are starting to drive change throughout the enterprise and remedy problems Ramos said he’s seen since he was in uniform.
“A lot of the problems that existed in medical logistics when I was a young lieutenant still exist today,” he said. “So probably, the most rewarding thing is that I feel like we’re at the precipice of making differences, so those future young lieutenants won’t suffer having to deal with the same issues I dealt with 20 years ago.”
For many, the idea of hanging up the boots can be quite daunting. It’s a time a change and many unknowns, and it can cause uncertainty and anxiety in a retiring Soldier, Magana said.
He likened it to the first time a Soldier deploys. But reminded to-be-retirees that the feeling fades and they have skills from Army service that are transferrable to their next chapter.
“You didn’t know what was going to happen,” Magana said of a Soldier's first deployment. “Obviously, it’s not as dangerous as going into a combat zone, but the anxiety is there. It builds up.
“Just know that we all have skills that are marketable, and we will get through it,” he added. “You’ll find a position that’s right for you, whether it’s immediately after you retire or six months after. There will be something for you. Don’t give up and keep looking for what you want.”