News   Defense News

Logisticians Make COVID-19 Fight Possible

March 31, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Joint Staff logisticians are working around the clock to help civilian authorities deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, the Joint Staff's logistics director, said his small organization in the Pentagon is working with U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Northern Command to ensure the right people are where they need to be, that they have the right equipment, and that the material that civilian health care providers need is delivered to them. 

"We're all in on this," Tuck told Pentagon reporters via a telephone briefing. 

Airman guides pallet full of supplies on aircraft.
Loading Ops
Airmen assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron prepare to load pallets of medical supplies onto a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 20, 2020. The supplies were deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, supporting Italian efforts to provide patient care to their populace in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class John Wright
VIRIN: 200320-F-KY598-1412Y
Masked soldier processes swabs.
Processing Samples
Louisiana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClellan processes nasal swabs from patients during a drive-thru community based COVID-19 testing site at Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, March 20, 2020. The number of Guardsmen activated and the amount of Guard equipment used for the COVID-19 response is expected to increase until the situation is stabilized.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Dan Farrell, Louisiana Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200320-Z-PB680-029Y

The general reiterated the Defense Department's three priorities in dealing with COVID-19: protecting the health of the people, maintaining mission readiness and supporting the whole-of-government effort. Up and down the line, logistics personnel are working overtime to ensure these priorities are met, he said.

Tuck's organization receives the requirements from the combatant commands and the services. The requests for the Navy hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort to go to Los Angeles and New York, respectively, went through the organization. "We had a hand in making sure that the medical component of that, as well as the sustainment of those two vessels, were indeed being looked after," Tuck said. 

The office also worked on establishing Army field hospital support in Washington state and New York. They are working with the services, Transcom and Northcom to transport and sustain Navy expeditionary medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans. The sailors will report to treatment facilities being established at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

DOD is also delivering ventilators – the most effective treatment for those who come down with COVID-19 – where they need to be. DOD has earmarked 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services. "As of last night, talking to the logistical folks that helped in Health and Human Services, we have 1,000 that we are going to put in a prepare-to-deploy order, because that's what they're asking for," Tuck said. "If they need the full complement of 2,000, we're able to support."

Man works on ventilator.
Ventilator Work
Biomedical equipment specialist Willie Kendricks conducts depot-level maintenance on a ventilator at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., as the Army supports COVID-19 response efforts worldwide. Kendricks is employed by the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, part of the U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command.
Photo By: Ellen Crawn, Army
VIRIN: 200323-A-QL922-0004S

DOD has already delivered 2 million of the 5 million N-95 respirator masks. The department stands ready to deliver more when HHS asks, the general said.

The Air Force has flown a number of "test swab" missions from Memphis, Tenn., to Italy. "Each mission has run about 500,000 apiece, we've done six of eight missions, so 3 million or 4 million delivered," Tuck said. "Again, those are helping Health and Human Services."

Finally, the organization is working with State Department officials to get Americans overseas home. The office is working closely with Transcom for these flights. "Our job was basically to help get the authorities access for basing and overflight," he said. 

These are Civil Reserve Air Fleet carriers, although the department also uses Air Force planes in some areas, such as U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility, where there are established flights with space aboard. "We can put Department of State personnel, their families, American citizens, legal permanent residents on those airplanes," the general said. "We've done nine missions to date."

Combating COVID-19 "is the most important thing that's on our plate," the general said. "We're working on not only those things, but we're working on personal protective equipment, more on medical testing … along with a myriad of things that I hadn't mentioned."