Unit supplies good health to Iraq

By Sgt. Ann Venturato
Assistant editor

Behind the scenes in every hospital, there is a medical supplier who provides the doctor with the necessary equipment to save lives.

The 226th Medical Logistics Battalion is that medical supplier for Iraq.

The battalion is comprised of four areas of operation: Class VIII medical supplies, medical maintenance, blood and optical fabrication, said Capt. Elena Raspitha, the personnel officer for the 226th Med. Log. Bn.

Each section plays their part in helping to improve the lives of Soldiers throughout Iraq.

The medical supply section has the mission of shipping, receiving and storing medical supplies until they are needed.

"We transport medical supplies all over theater," said 1st Lt. Miguel Roque, the officer in charge of shipping, receiving and transportation of medical supplies.

The medical supplies come in and Soldiers from the battalion offload the crates.

"First we inventory the crate to see that it matches the packing list. Once the medical equipment is verified, the inventory is logged in and then set to be placed in a box in either the local or non-local delivery section. Local deliveries are picked up by unit medical representatives and non-local deliveries are crated up for ground or air transportation," said Spc. Serrida Keating, a supply specialist with the 226th Med. Log. Bn.

It is a never ending process, Keating said. "All medical supplies in theater come through here," Keating said. "We see every medical supply. We touch everything that goes to sick call or emergency rooms."

The medical supplies that aren't shipped out are taken to a storage facility until they are needed by units, Keating said.

It is a huge responsibility for the Soldiers that keeps them very busy as they go through their daily tasks to complete their mission.

"It is hard work getting the medical supplies to those who really need it," Keating said. "We get it out to them as fast as we can."

The medical supply Soldiers have been very busy supporting their customers.

The medical supply warehouse and shipping and receiving sections support about 150 customers throughout Iraq, Raspitha said.

The warehouse processes an average of 2,000 customer orders for Class VIII medical supplies per week, Raspitha added.

Working to make that happen is the partnership between 226th Med. Log. Bn. and the 13th Corps Support Command.

"This is the first instance in history where a medical logistics battalion has integrated within a COSCOM," said Lt. Col. James A. Signaigo, the 226th Med. Log. Bn. commander. "Our cargo blended into COSCOM cargo, and the benefit for the customer is that they get one truck with all commodities on it."

Getting those medical supplies out for the benefit of customers is just one part of Sgt. Steven Lee's busy job.

"It keeps you on your toes," said Lee, a medical supply transportation specialist with the 226th Med. Log. Bn. "It can get very hectic at times with last minute flight changes."

The Soldiers in the medical supply section aren't the only Soldiers in the unit who are busy. The medical maintenance section of the 226th Med. Log. Bn. is just as busy keeping medical equipment throughout theater up and running.

"We have medical maintenance Soldiers performing missions throughout the theater," said Spc. Joel Workman, a medical maintenance technician with the unit.

"We go everywhere," Workman said. "We are kind of like the third-level shop for theater so we support most of everybody in the theater."

The medical maintenance section receives medical equipment that needs repair or calibration.

"Our biggest problem is getting parts to fix it," said Staff Sgt. Charles Judd, a shop foreman at the medical maintenance section. "Our turn-around time is about three weeks although we are trying to get down to two weeks or less."

The unit runs a replacement equipment program in which people bring in critical equipment for repairs.

The damaged item is replaced, repaired, and put back into operation.

"We make sure that doctors have what they need to save lives," Judd said.

Judd and the rest of the Soldiers in the medical maintenance section take their job at repairing and calibrating medical equipment very seriously.

"We make sure the repairs are done right because it could be used on anyone," said Judd. The medical maintenance section handles about 125 work orders a week in theater.

"We are very aggressive when it comes to getting work orders," said Chief Warrant Officer Bill Gasaway, the battalion maintenance officer for 226th Med. Log. Bn.

No work order is too big for the medical maintenance section to take. They have taken customer relations to a whole new level. They feel that their mission isn't complete until the piece of equipment is back in operation and helping save Soldiers' lives.

Another important maintenance section is the motor pool maintenance section of the 226th Med. Log. Bn.

Soldiers like Pfc. Jason Kline, a heavy wheeled vehicle mechanic, help keep the vehicles up and running so the supplies can be delivered to the right people.

"Even though we have a small part in the lives that are saved, it is a vital part," Kline said.

Besides fixing vehicles, the motor pool also repairs the forklifts used by the medical supply Soldiers to transport medical equipment around the warehouse.

"The motor pool does a good job at keeping the forklifts up," said Spc. Rod Nichols, a Soldier who assists in local dispersion of medical supplies.

An important medical supply that is in constant need comes from the blood section of the battalion.

The battalion suplies all of the blood for the Multinational Force-Iraq.

The blood section provides support to 19 agencies throughout Iraq and Kuwait.

"We support Combat Support Hospitals and Forward Surgical Teams," said Sgt. 1st Class Emerito Rodriguez, a medical lab technician with the 226th Med. Log. Bn.

Because blood expires every 21 days, there is always constant need for it to be resupplied.

The blood supplies the unit gets are from a blood transfusion center which gets the blood from military blood centers in the states, said Rodriguez.

"We receive the blood products, store them in the storage refrigerators and then ship them out when needed," said Rodriguez.

"I kind of feel like we are the people behind the scenes," Rodriguez said. "If people don't get blood at the right time, people will die."

Also behind the scenes providing support to the area is the optical fabrication section of the 226th Med. Log. Bn.

The optical fabrication section, which is located in the Troop Medical Clinic here, makes about 150 pairs of glasses a week.

"We make single-vision and most multi-vision glasses," said Sgt. Andria Bergner, an optical lab technician with the unit. "Those we can't make we send out or to a Navy lab in the states."

Glasses get sent out by either by land or air using medical packs or the military postal service.

Soldiers can get same day service for singlevision glasses and get multi-vision glasses within 48 hours.

Each section in the 226th Med. Log. Bn. plays their part in making the mission of the unit possible.

"It's my dream, and they're backing it," said Signaigo, "Without all the teamwork in the battalion it wouldn't all be possible."

"The bottom line is that those healthcare givers are only as good as the materials they have to work with." said Signaigo. "Our systems always have to be up."

 

Spc. Quay Luong
Spc. Quay Luong, a medical lab technician for the 226th Medical Logistics Battalion, takes inventory on packaged red blood cells in a storage refrigerator.