Aiding the Pacific
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Joint U.S. service members and DoD civilians from various medical units on Okinawa converged for a first-of-its-kind exercise July 12-14, at Kadena AB in order to test the Theater Lead Agent for Medical Material – Pacific’s ability to aid large-scale emergencies.
The unit, also known as TLAMM-P, serves as the region’s central node for providing medical supplies and equipment to all deployed forces within U.S. Pacific Command, with the exception of the Korean peninsula. This was the first iteration of training that has tested its maximum range of effectiveness since it was established in 2009.
The TLAMM-P mission is carried out by a small team of Airmen from the 18th Medical Support Squadron, who track and process supplies from distributers and channel them to all consuming agencies. Their role is to keep U.S. Marines, Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors well supplied and ready to deliver life-saving capabilities wherever and whenever they are needed.
“This exercise provides invaluable hands-on experience for service members, and it helps improve our future contributions to disaster relief and contingency efforts,” said Maj. Gillian Taylor-Dorsett, 18th MDSS TLAMM-P director of operations. “It will demonstrate the value of our partnership-building activities, with improved response capabilities and training.”
Medical personnel here were challenged not only to meet the demands of their regular day-to-day customers for real-world operations, but also to respond to simulated crises throughout the Pacific, such as resupplying deployed U.S. Marines in Darwin, Australia.
To prepare for worst-case scenarios, representatives from each participating agency met face-to-face and exchanged ideas of how they can improve unit cohesion and interoperability.
“We were able to try and sync up exactly what we think is going to happen here during different scenarios between all the joint services,” said Russ Ackerman, U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa emergency manager and exercise observer. “So, if we can better understand how we all operate, we can better integrate whatever problem is confronting us.”
Members took into account various obstacles such as making the most out of transportation and shipment confinements with limited airlift resources and navigating through a myriad of joint-service rules and regulations.
Each requested order of supplies comes with a unique set of stipulations. In order to get each delivery sent to where it is needed in time, personnel must handle logistics such as safety, temperature, international customs, changes in time zones, product expiration, method of transportation and more.
Additionally, medical logistics professionals need to prepare a backup plan, in case of any disruption in the delivery process.
Medical missions throughout the island depend on TLAMM-P in order to function, such as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Camp Foster, which cares for premature born infants, or the 18th Aerospace Evacuation Squadron, which transports patients to higher medical care off island.
With a mission that is always growing and adapting, Airmen of the 18th MDSS Medical Logistics Flight are constantly involved in large-scale exercises throughout the year to maintain readiness and stay innovative. The TLAMM-P is also the central medical supply hub for PACOM contingency exercises such as Cobra Gold, Pacific Partnerships, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.
“The biggest takeaway for the medical logistics community here at the 18 Medical Group has been understanding our role within our PACOM and understanding that we, as medics, can always get the mission accomplished in a joint service capacity and in a deployed setting,” said Taylor-Dorsett. “We are a part of the mission, and we do whatever it takes to succeed, whether it’s fighting the actual war or getting the supplies to the warfighter.”
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