USAMMA Liaison Officers Master the 'Art of Calculating'
Merriam-Webster defines logistics as, "the aspect of military science dealing with the procurement, maintenance, and transportation of military materiel, facilities, and personnel." Translated from its French and Greek roots, logistics is also known as, "the art of calculating."
Today, logistics is both a science and an art. Data-driven analysis support accurate forecasting and planning to ensure the military gets the right materiel, to the right people, in the right locations, and at the right time. Flexibility, however, is essential to keep up with the changing complexity of missions.
When it comes to medical logistics, the science and art of calculating medical equipment and supplies is even more delicate. Medical equipment and supplies include everything from X-ray machines to entire operating room assemblages. Medical materiel also include "potency and dated" items, such as pharmaceuticals, that often have sensitive shipping and storage requirements, as well as expiration dates.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a subordinate agency of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, provides medical logistics support and solutions across the full spectrum of military health care worldwide. A key part of the USAMMA team is five regionally located medical liaison officers (LNOs).
The LNOs coordinate with commands to make logistics assessments, based on historical trends and current requirements, in order to ensure medical readiness down to the unit level. The LNOs also provide before, during, and after deployment support for all units, including the Reserves and National Guard, with medical assets.
"The LNO's job is to bridge the communication gap. The military is full of vertical organizations and that can make it hard for people to reach out and talk to each other. The LNO is a central point of contact in the field that helps to answer medical materiel questions," said Mike McHale, USAMMA LNO and Task Lead.
USAMMA created the LNO program in 2009 to streamline medical logistics customer support for units worldwide, especially during high operational tempo when units needed to rapidly reset (i.e., replenish supplies and replace worn out equipment) after deployments. In 2013, the LNO mission shifted to readiness, focusing more on medical maintenance and materiel property accountability. Each LNO geographically supports numerous battalion level units of which about 60 percent have medical equipment.
"Our job is not to tell any unit what to do; rather, we advise them based on policy and guidance," explained McHale. "We work in a platform of influence; not a platform of power."
Each LNO has averaged more than 300 units served per month, including active duty, reserves and National Guard. About 80 percent of these units are located within the continental U.S., and 20 percent are located overseas or deployed.
According to USAMMA Materiel Fielding Division Chief Maj. Stephen Spulick, one of the LNO program's biggest successes has been in cost avoidance for the Army. In the first half of fiscal year 2016, the LNOs supported USAMMA processes that resulted in $4.4 million in total cost avoidance. More than half of those cost avoidances relate to modernization -- a process used to describe the Army's annual plan to update technology and equipment. The LNOs work with units to analyze and validate medical modernization requirements, comparing them to the Army's current business practices, medical materiel accountability and past fielding projects. When medical materiel and equipment is determined unrequired, based on current business practices, the LNO coordinates with the USAMMA to remove that materiel from the fielding plan.
Spulick added, "The LNOs are an important part of USAMMA's effort to equip and sustain the warfighter efficiently."
To contact your USAMMA medical LNO:
Michael S. McHale
Charles (Chuck) O. Price, Jr.
Tony C. Talley