The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Medical team is walking a little taller after sweeping the organization’s three major annual award categories in recognition of their support to the nation in 2021.
The awards recognized Thomas Heleniak, Medical tailored vendor logistics specialist, as Employee of the Year; the Operation Allies Welcome/Refuge group as Team of the Year; and Nora Steigerwalt, director of Customer Operations, as the Supervisor of the Year.
The medical supply chain faced many challenges over the year, but the team overcame every hurdle, Medical Supply Chain Director Army Col. Matthew Voyles said.
“I can’t think of more deserving folks than these outstanding Medical logistics and acquisition professionals,” Voyles said. “In the face of another full year of the COVID-19 pandemic; an unprecedented operation to support allies with unique needs; and record business with industry, warfighters and federal partners, they didn’t just rise to the challenge. They set new, higher standards of medical logistics excellence.”
Heleniak was recognized for his role in both the COVID-19 and Operations Allies Refuge and Operations Allies Welcome missions as the “shortstop” assigned to field and enter incoming orders, then release deliveries and track materiel for both missions.
“It was truly humbling and the greatest honor in my professional career to hear that I won this award,” Heleniak said. “While I individually won this award, I would not have been able to perform my duties at the best of my availabilities without assistance from my team and co-workers Kevin Echelberger, Frances Kennedy, Hissein Galmai, Matthew Rafferty and especially Maryann Bickel, who has trained me and guided me through my DLA career.”
According to the award, Heleniak deftly controlled, managed, and distributed personnel protective equipment and other COVID-related materiel including hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 test kits positioned at DLA Distribution. He also ensured the timely delivery of $5M of medical materiel for more than 100,000 Afghan allies.
“[Heleniak] is a team player that continuously assists and mentors his counterparts and promotes a winning team effort,” Medical Deputy Director Elizabeth McMaster said. “This award not only recognizes his tremendous contributions, but also sets an example that promotes excellence, dedication, and extraordinary results.”
Medical’s OAR/OAW Team was lauded for providing more than 803,000 doses of 15 types of vaccines valued over $23 million, all precisely delivered to ten overseas and stateside locations. The team also delivered COVID-19 test kits valued over $5.5 million to ensure safety during the pandemic.
“Throughout the effort, the team provided continuous tracking of the very fluid requirements and corresponding acquisitions and deliveries to meet [Combatant Command] needs,” McMaster said. “They proactively evaluated every requirement, anticipated the pitfalls and risks, worked as a coordinated unit to mitigate [challenges] and met every goal.”
Steigerwalt’s high praise came not only because she was responsible for leading the Employee and Team of the Year, but for her understanding of the joint, integrated, end-to-end, Department of Defense Medical Supply Chain. She worked directly with the DOD Joint Staff, Defense Health Agency, military services and other federal stakeholders to ensure mission success across the spectrum of Medical’s portfolio, all while improving overall business processes and partnerships for ongoing missions.
“I am honored to be nominated, let alone selected, for this award. I have always been proud to be part of the medical team, and feel this award is recognition of the contributions and success of our entire supply chain,” Steigerwalt said. “I am fortunate to work with and learn from so many outstanding professionals that are singularly focused on warfighter first and supporting our great nation. I cannot thank my medical teammates enough.”
Specifically, the award cites:
Design, implementation and maintenance of a COVID-19 “common operating picture” for supply chain stakeholders to monitor and measure progress in near real-time.
Delivery of “hundreds of millions” of personal protective equipment items and rapid COVID-19 tests valued at $1.5 billion.
Quickly turning lessons learned during the pandemic into tools for success in support of 100,000 Afghan nationals “on time, target, and budget.”
Increasing support to Department of Veterans Affairs partners by 102%.
“[Steigerwalt] has led or significantly contributed to every major supply and logistics support mission of DLA's Medical directorate,” McMaster said. “She is focused, determined, respected, relentless, and uniquely qualified to ensure DLA reliably delivers medical materiel logistics support to U.S. warfighters throughout the world every day and in every crisis. She has been, and continues to be, DLA's face to its 6,800 medical logistics customers worldwide.”
DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Eric Shirley echoed praise for the winners and extended it to the organization at large.
“Although there can only be one winner in each category – and these folks were it without question this year – every DLA Troop Support teammate should be proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past year. There isn’t a challenge we haven’t met, and that’s because of the outstanding work done by our winners this year, as well as each and every one of you,” Shirley said.