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News | March 7, 2019

Medical helps new Navy ships join the fleet

By Shaun Eagan DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

As proposed in its 2019 shipbuilding plan, the U.S. Navy is in the works of building new aircraft carriers, destroyers and other vessels to join its fleet to support missions around the world. 


Similar to how these new ships need to have the proper ammunition, food and kitchen supplies, clothing items for the sailors or even maintenance materials, the ships also need vaccines, syringes, and other medical and dental equipment and supplies.


This is where the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Medical supply chain steps in.


“[Each new] ship’s medical department needs to be adequately stocked with [medical] supplies before the ship is commissioned for active service,” Randall Owens, Medical Customer Operational Facing Division supervisor, said.


Medical has been working closely with the Navy to fill each new ship with the proper medical and dental equipment and supplies required to join the fleet. Without the supplies, the ships cannot set sail, which delays operations.


“Ships are heavy metal industrial workplaces, with multiple hazards abound, that can cause serious injury to sailors and officers assigned to a ship's company,” Owens said. “There are scores of ways personnel can be injured aboard ships during their everyday peacetime duties, not to mention what may happen during combat operations or a collision with another ship.


“Hospital corpsmen assigned to these platforms desperately need their cupboards and storerooms fully stocked with medical supplies so they can respond to all possible contingencies.”


Tom Revak, a Medical tailored vendor logistics specialist, and his teammates order thousands of items for the new ships, and coordinate the delivery process with vendors throughout the shipbuilding process.


“The Navy team will let us know where each ship is, what is needed and where it’s at in the building process,” Revak said. “From here, we will take the information and develop a procurement schedule for each ship so that products arrive on time and the ship can set sail.”


Revak says the Medical team is currently processing 16,357 medical and dental orders for 18 new ships. These orders consist of bandages, tools, pharmaceuticals and other items typically found in a doctor’s office. 


The Navy is set on building and maintaining its fleet by increasing the number of ships from 285 to 355, making it the largest fleet since the Reagan Administration, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Over the next 30 years, the Navy will build 301 ships to meet its targeted fleet number, and offset the ships that will become retired.


As each new ship comes close to completion, it needs to meet medical requirements. Between shipbuilding schedule changes, short shelf lives for products and delivery locations, this is no small task for Revak.


“We only have a two-week window to get all of the deliveries to each ship when they place the order,” Revak said. “It becomes difficult when you consider ships’ various locations, the different shipping methods, etcetera.”


Working with the Navy to have thousands of supplies delivered in a short time frame can be intimidating. And to make matters more complicated, because the ships have different missions, sizes and capabilities, no order is going to be the same as another ship, Revak said.


However, Revak works with the Navy to understand each ship’s priorities. Through routine bi-weekly update meetings, constant communication and sharing changes in schedules or requirements, Revak and his teammates are able to accommodate last-second changes.


“Effective two-way communication between the customer and DLA [Troop Support] are keys to success,” Owens said. “We need to understand their urgency of need, and the customer needs to understand when they should order short shelf-life materiel like laboratory reagents and some pharmaceuticals.”


Revak tries to make sure consumable products don’t expire after a ship sets sail so that sailors’ medical readiness isn’t compromised. It comes down to communication and planning between the organizations to have non-sensitive shelf life products delivered earlier in the shipbuilding process, and timing each delivery so ships have as much shelf life on products as possible.


“You don't want the customer to order materials with a short shelf life too they could expire prior to ship's commissioning,” Owens said. “[But you also want to make sure] medical and surgical materials should be ordered as soon as possible because of their multiple-year shelf-life.”


Revak said the team has been supporting the Navy’s new ships since 2011, and they are scheduled to manage 30 new ships between 2020 and 2025.


The team, consisting of a retired Navy officer, National Guardsmen and an employee with 30-plus years of experience, knows what it’s like to be on the customer side of these operations and uses that knowledge to help the customer.


“We know what it’s like to be on the other end ‘needing’ supplies from our various deployments with our jobs,” Revak said. “We have an open communication with our Navy customers when feedback is needed to expedite orders and request additional information for our buyers, vendors and distributors as well as providing feedback to our ships. I truly don’t think the Navy could have a better team on the DLA [Troop Support] side helping with this new build [process].”