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A modular medical logistics force: forward distribution teams help mitigate some of the supply distribution problems experienced during early Operation Iraqi Freedom rotations.

A modular, force is a key aspect of the Army Chief of Staff s vision and Strategic Planning Guidance for transforming the Army. The modular force model is based on brigade-sized elements that are more responsive than division-sized elements and can perform joint and expeditionary-type missions. Using modular units, Army planners can tailor force structure, reduce strategic lift requirements, and create flexible forces with specialized capabilities based on ever-changing mission requirements.

Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF OIF Operation Iraqi Freedom
OIF Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (French: International Organization of Francophonie)
OIF Office for Intellectual Freedom (American Library Association) 
), medical logisticians have made significant progress toward meeting the Chief of Staff's vision for a modular force. During the past two rotations, medical logistics units, through the concept of modular forward distribution teams, have addressed several major problems that occurred in OIF I.

OIF I Logistics Shortfalls

In OIF I, medical logistics units supported their customers largely through doctrinal supply point distribution, in which customers picked up supplies from their designated source of supply. Medical logisticians quickly realized that this system did not meet customer requirements or expectations adequately. Extended lines of communication "Lines of Communication" is an episode from the fourth season of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5. Synopsis
Franklin and Marcus attempt to persuade the Mars resistance to assist Sheridan in opposing President Clark.
 and enemy threats created unique problems for supply point distribution. Medical logisticians also did not communicate medical distribution requirements adequately to the distribution process owners. Therefore, the overall system was not responsive to customers' needs.

Medical logisticians realized that some of these problems occurred because Army medical logistics systems operators were not skilled in using those systems, even when electronic communication systems were available. Likewise, many medical logistics Soldiers and leaders were not adequately trained for their mission. This training shortfall occurred primarily because garrison medical logistics supply operations, which are supported by medical prime vendors and door-to-door commercial transportation, are significantly different from deployment operations, which are characterized by extended lines of communication. Also, medical materiel requirements during peacetime are relatively low when compared to wartime requirements.


In short, many medical units and customers in OIF I were frustrated with the medical logistics system because it lacked responsive distribution, adequate automation support, and adequate Soldier and leader training to meet their needs and expectations.

Forward Distribution Teams

In OIF II, the 226th Medical Logistics Battalion (Forward) from Miesau, Germany, quickly addressed these problems by using a nondoctrinal modular concept of forward distribution teams (FDTs) to move materiel throughout Iraq using 13th Corps Support Command (COSCOM COSCOM Corps Support Command (US Army)
COSCOM Coastal Command (Coast Guard/Navy, Singapore) 
) trucks. The 226th's FDTs were stand-alone entities that had all of the organizational equipment needed to operate outside of the battalion's area of operations. They were small, four-Soldier operations that could deploy rapidly across the battlefield.

'New and Improved' FDTs

In OIF 04-06, the goal of the 32d Medical Logistics Battalion (Forward), XVIII Airborne Corps, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina
The article is about the US Army post in North Carolina. For the City in California with the same name, see Fort Bragg, California

Fort Bragg is a major United States Army installation, in Cumberland and Hoke Counties, North Carolina, U.S.
, was to improve the FDT FDT - Formal Description Technique  concept and processes that were implemented by the 226th. (The Army adopted a new rotation-numbering system after OIF I and II.) To medical logisticians and maintainers, value is more than a box or a part; value also lies in personal service to the customer. With this in mind, the battalion divided its two-platoon distribution company into seven modular FDTs. These teams were paired with the 1st COSCOM distribution management teams and tasked to sustain geographic areas of responsibility in conjunction with the corps support group's area of responsibility. Predeployment training conducted at Fort Bragg focused on the tasks the modular teams would perform independently to support customers.

The size and makeup of the teams were tailored to the number and type of supported units. Typical FDTs consisted of a noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC NCOIC Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (military)
NCOIC Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium
), two medical logistics technicians, and a medical maintenance technician. These four-Soldier teams supported 60 units (approximately 15,000 Soldiers). To meet mission requirements, the FDTs that supported level Iii healthcare facilities (those staffed to perform resuscitative, surgical, and postoperative care), large troop concentrations, and multiple outlying forward operating bases were augmented with additional medical logistics specialists with military occupational specialty A Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is a job classification in use in the United States Army and Marine Corps. The occupational specialty system uses a system of letters and numbers to identify general and specific jobs of military personnel.  (MOS (1) (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) See MOSFET.

(2) (Mean Opinion Score) The quality of a digitized voice line. It is a subjective measurement that is derived entirely by people listening to the calls and scoring the results from
) 91J and medical equipment repairers with MOS 9lA.

A lieutenant and two FDTs supported the Multinational Division (MND MND Multi-National Division (NATO)
MND Motor Neurone Disease
MND Ministry of National Defense
MND Ministry of National Development (Singapore)
MND Mitigated Negative Declaration
MND A Midsummer Night's Dream
) North Central and Multinational Force (MNF MNF Monday Night Football
MNF Multinational Force
MNF Mizo National Front
MNF Mendocino National Forest (California)
MNF Master Navigation Filter
MNF Multi-Net Fault
MNF Moorehead and North Fork Railroad
MNF Manual Notification Form
) Northwest. Another lieutenant and two FDTs supported the MND Baghdad and the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq. A third lieutenant and two FDTs supported the MND Southeast and MND Central South. These lieutenants planned and directed all medical logistics operations and provided situational awareness to the distribution company commander and the battalion support operations officer. They participated in corps support group operations meetings and hospital and medical coordination meetings, conducted mission analyses, and anticipated and fixed distribution and maintenance problems encountered in their areas of responsibility. The seventh FDT supported the MNF West in partnership with the Navy Medical Logistics Detachment.

Direct Shipments

To address continuing problems with supply point distribution, the 32d Medical Logistics Battalion used a direct distribution process. The battalion coordinated with supply sources in Qatar and Germany to have materiel flown directly to strategic air hubs and FDT locations. The FDTs made sure that materiel was received and secured, requisitions were closed out, and materiel was prepared for customer pickup or onward movement by ground. Having the FDTs available to receive and process materiel forward reduced the 10- to 15-day shipping time to 3 to 6 days. In 1 month, the use of direct shipments removed approximately 41 truckloads of cargo and at least 82 Soldiers from the dangerous roads of Iraq.

Support Operations Section

The need soon became apparent for a modular element that could be plugged into the corps' distribution process to coordinate FDT operations and synchronize the movement of medical materiel with other classes of supply. The 32d Medical Logistics Battalion reorganized its headquarters detachment to create a modular plug that was dubbed the support operations (SPO SPO System(s) Program Office
SPO System(s) Project Office
Spo Schizosaccharomyces Pombe
SPO Srpski Pokret Obnove
) section. The functional layout of the reorganized battalion headquarters shown on page 9 includes the mission-dictated SPO section and FDTs. Note the coordinated communication between the FDTs and the SPO, distribution operations, and direct support unit (DSU 1. (communications) DSU - Data Service Unit.
2. DSU - Disk Subsystem Unit (Artecon).
3. (humour) DSU - Dwarf Storage Unit.
) operations sections.

The SPO section is staffed by a major with area of concentration (AOC AOC,
n an acronym for the Aromatherapy Organizations Council.
) 70K, medical logistician; a first lieutenant with AOC 70B, health services administrative assistant; a sergeant first class with MOS 25U, signal support systems specialist; a sergeant first class and a staff sergeant with MOS 91J, medical logistics specialist; and a sergeant with MOS 92Y, unit supply specialist. The SPO section operates out of 1st COSCOM's Corps Distribution Command and represents medical logistics on a joint distribution board that synchronizes, prioritizes, and solves movement issues across Iraq. Including a SPO section in the headquarters is not a new concept; it is a part of the design of the future multifunctional medical battalion. However, because it was embedded in 1st COSCOM's Corps Distribution Command and employed in wartime without a programmed force structure or fielding, the SPO section was unique.

Locating the SPO section in 1st COSCOM's Corps Distribution Command and the FDTs in the corps support groups makes it possible to provide coordinated customer assistance and timely distribution of medical logistics. Together, these units maintain tactical visibility of main supply routes, attend meetings of the joint movements board, exchange information with commodity command and COSCOM customer liaison officers, coordinate ground and air movements, expedite critical movements for mass casualty events and other urgent medical needs, and monitor materiel in the truck lanes at the joint distribution center. The SPO section facilitates resolution of issues raised by customers and the FDTs and coordinates support to upcoming operations.

Automation Support

The FDTs facilitate medical materiel movement and area medical maintenance support. The teams provide the critical link among COSCOM materiel movers and the corps support groups, distribution operations, and customers. To do this, the team members have become knowledgeable of the systems used by customers, such as the Combat Automated Support Server-Medical (CASS-M), Theater Army Medical Management Information System (TAMMIS TAMMIS theater Army medical management and information system (US DoD) ), and TAMMIS Customer Assistance Module (TCAM (TeleCommunications Access Method) IBM communications software widely used to transfer data between mainframes and 3270 terminals. See access method. ). They also are familiar with the logistics distribution process and have an understanding of customer requirements so that they can best support them. FDTs have proven effective in troubleshooting problems on site with automation, materiel movement, and forward medical maintenance support.

The FDT NCOIC oversees training and assists customers in the use of logistics automation, such as TAMMIS and TCAM, and works to resolve medical logistics problems. FDT Soldiers also help customers with technological challenges such as firewalls and problems encountered when using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) and navigating Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses. They also assist with maintaining in-transit visibility and using the Defense Automatic Addressing System Center Inquiry system to track inbound class VIII shipments and validate input of customer information into the DSU's warehouse. The Soldiers on the FDTs also provide customers technical guidance on installing logistics system components, setting up customer files, sending orders electronically, receiving status reports, processing receipts, reconciling orders, locating product substitutions, researching products, updating catalogs, processing excess supplies, and issuing and turning in materiel.

Medical maintenance technicians are critical members of the modular team. They provide medical maintenance expertise to customers in the FDT's area of responsibility, assist with the use of the Unit Level Logistics System-Medical (ULLS-M), and repair forward medical equipment. They also coordinate with DSU operations to obtain operational readiness float equipment and facilitate the retrograde of equipment and components for repair. Their forward presence and their ability to assist with repair of critical equipment, such as the computerized tomography (CT) scanners and medical oxygen generators, in remote areas of Iraq are a true success story.

Within 30 days of implementation of the modular FDT initiative, the forward maintenance technicians repaired more than 145 items of equipment and provided on-site assistance to 62 customers. The FDTs were able to repair equipment on site rather than evacuate it to another location, which saved a significant amount of time.

The 32d Medical Logistics Battalion found that a modular medical logistics force could provide more coordinated support and enhanced customer service. The tailored structure of the FDTs not only enabled operational flexibility but also matched available medical logistics capabilities with the customers' automation, materiel, and maintenance requirements to provide fast and accurate service and support.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL MITCHELL E. BREW IS THE COMMANDER OF THE 32D MEDICAL LOGISTICS BATTALION (FORWARD) AT FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA, WHICH 15 CURRENTLY DEPLOYED TO IRAQ. HE HOLDS A B.S. DEGREE IN BUSINESS FROM THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (body) State University of New York - (SUNY) The public university system of New York State, USA, with campuses throughout the state.  AT BUFFALO, AN M.S. DEGREE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA The U.S. News & World Report ranked USC 27th among all universities in the United States in its 2008 ranking of "America's Best Colleges", also designating it as one of the "most selective universities" for admitting 8,634 of the almost 34,000 who applied for freshman admission , AN M.B.A. DEGREE FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, AND AN M.H.A. DEGREE FROM BAYLOR UNIVERSITY AND IS A FELLOW IN THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVES. HE 15 A GRADUATE OF THE ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE The Command and General Staff College (C&GSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is a United States Army facility that functions as a graduate school for U.S. military leaders. It was originally established in 1881 as a school for infantry and cavalry. , THE LOGISTICS EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT COURSE, THE JOINT MEDICAL PLANNER'S COURSE, THE ARMY FORCE MANAGEMENT COURSE, THE MEDICAL LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT COURSE, AND THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT BASIC AND ADVANCED COURSES.

CAPTAIN JASON Jason, in Greek mythology
Jason, in Greek mythology, son of Aeson. When Pelias usurped the throne of Iolcus and killed (or imprisoned) Aeson and most of his descendants, Jason was smuggled off to the centaur Chiron, who reared him secretly on Mt. Pelion.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Brew, Mitchell E.; Fairbanks, Jason M.
Publication:Army Logistician
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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