Medical helps strengthen U.S. partnerships through readiness

By Shaun Eagan DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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After flying 6,600 miles half way across the world in almost two days, a pair of Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support employees found themselves in the Middle East, meeting face-to-face with general officers of a U.S. ally.

Peter Skillings and Abin Mathai, two Medical supply chain team leads, met with Saudi Arabian National Guard Health Affairs leaders during a U.S. Army’s Office of the Program Manager - Saudi Arabian National Guard summit last month. Skillings and Mathai educated the host nation’s military about Medical’s services, demonstrated products and evaluated protocols in an effort to help strengthen the national guard’s medical readiness on the battlefield.

“This is the first time we went to Saudi Arabia [and] they’re very interested in working with us,” Skillings, Medical’s Collective and Foreign Military Sales branch chief, said. “We went there to educate OPM-SANG and the Saudi Arabian National Guard Health Affairs, and show them how we source and provide medical consumables.”

Meeting face-to-face with their Saudi Arabian counterparts to demonstrate customized first aid kits helped address questions and concerns after months of discussions, said Mathai, a Medical Dressing, Tools and Instruments integrated support team chief. Mathai manages the Made-to-Order program that creates customized medical kits, sets and assemblages.

“They were very interested in the MTO program because we can make customized [individual first aid kits] that meet their needs and can also be adjusted as their requirements change,” Mathai said. “We’ve been working with them for six-to-seven months on the pricing and availability for the IFAK, and figuring out the various components, such as tourniquets, chest seals and gauzes, that’ll be in it.”

However, Skillings and Mathai did not travel all that way to make a sales pitch.

In addition to the product demonstrations, they toured warehouses and provided feedback on warehouse management, local sourcing, shelf life methods and ways DLA Troop Support’s warehouse protocols can help the Saudi Arabia military create a stronger, independent medical logistics system, Skillings said. 

“We were brought in to talk to Saudi Arabian National Guard Health Affairs about medical logistics sustainment,” Skillings said. “It was a joint effort as we represented DLA Troop Support [at the summit], but other military agencies were there too to talk about their responsibilities of medical readiness and that’s what made it powerful.”

The visit to Saudi Arabia came at a time when the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, Mick Mulroy, placed an emphasis on building up the partnerships with the Middle East Strategic Alliance.

The face-to-face meeting with the foreign military health affairs leaders helped “share ideas on how Saudi Arabia can accelerate their development and improve their first aid care on a battlefield,” according to Skillings.

“Think of FMS as a force multiplier,” Skillings said. “In some instances, we are building the capacity of our allies to improve their capabilities on the battlefield. We provide medical supplies support to various countries that do not have the capacity, but we also serve as advisors on medical logistics. By doing so, we help these countries develop themselves. This is a strategic component that we're trying to achieve.”

Skillings said the FMS team provided support to more than 60 countries over the past two years and averaged about $10 million in sales on pharmaceuticals, medical surgical consumable supplies, hospital supplies and various first aid kits.

Once an ally country requests support on medical items, the FMS team will use key information and examine any challenges to find the appropriate course of action for servicing the request.

This information includes understanding the current manufacturing capabilities, cold chain management facilities, warehousing and the ability to implement DLA Troop Support manufacturing and business processes, Skillings said.

That is why their trip to Saudi Arabia was important.

These engagements help the FMS team serve its customers better, foster key relationships and enable medical readiness for U.S. allies around the world.

“Providing assistance to foreign countries under the FMS programs is significant to DLA Troop Support because it enhances support to our international partners,” Mathai said. “These engagements not only lead to current and future opportunities, but allow the customer to understand DLA Troop Support Medical’s logistics and acquisition strategies and how we can help meet their needs.”