During WWII, as the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers of V Amphibious Corps fought ashore across tiny Pacific outcroppings toting M1 Garands, hand grenades, bayonets and K-rations, the last thought on their minds must have been where their combat accoutrements came from. But as they waded ashore on the black, volcanic sand beaches of Iwo Jima, the most famous battle in Marine Corps history, there was a chain of supplies that spanned one quarter of the Earth’s surface, tracing back from the so-called “Sulfur Island” to the shores of the United States.
“Infantry wins battles, logistics wins wars.” So said Army General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front during WWI. Jump ahead a century, to 2020, and you will find a very different yet no less world altering war: the worldwide battle against COVID-19 – and again, the supply chain is vital to the front line health care workers who rely on the protective equipment which is helping to halt the spread of Coronavirus and limit the spread of the first pandemic in more than 100 years.
“As Supply Chain Management, we are responsible for keeping the Roseburg VA Health Care System stocked with both clinical and non-clinical supplies and equipment,” said Deeanna Bierman, a U.S. Navy Veteran and Chief of SCM for all five RVAHCS facilities across Southern Oregon. “Obviously, there has been a worldwide shortage of some critical equipment due to the Coronavirus – we have been acquiring as much as we can knowing the seriousness of the situation and knowing we may be called on to support non-Veteran patients in the event of a larger outbreak. We are well positioned right now should the situation require the Roseburg VA to begin assisting the community.”
While SCM has no direct patient interaction, they are no less important to the cause of serving Veterans enrolled with RVAHCS. In fact, the intricate supply management system that keeps front line providers well equipped with masks, face shields and clinical gowns has been a pillar of success during the Roseburg VA Coronavirus response, according to Bierman.
“I cannot speak any more highly of my team. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 response, a main effort of the Roseburg VA Incident Command has been ensuring we plan and project into the future, to get ahead of the curve,” said Bierman. “While a wider outbreak has not materialized in our area, and we all hope that remains the case, we are well prepared to keep supporting our Veterans, which is our main priority. We are proud of what we do every day to do our part to give our Veterans the care and support they earned while in uniform.”
The worldwide pandemic caused by SARS-CoV2, the disease that causes COVID-19, has brought cheers and tributes for health care workers across the globe. Traditional first responders and ordinary citizens – police, firemen, military and many others – line the streets outside medical facilities and atop balconies from New York City to New Delhi to show appreciation for the difficult work front line providers do each day.
For the Roseburg VA, the unsung heroes must share a piece of the credit for keeping front line staff in the proverbial fight, according to Keith Allen, Director of the RVAHCS. While moving boxes, tracking shipments, delivering supplies and equipment, sanitizing work areas, cooking meals and manning screening points might not appear flashy, every member of the Roseburg VA is imperative, committed and compassionate about the mission of serving Veterans.
“Our main concern since the beginning of our planning and response to COVID-19 has been keeping the virus out of our Community Living Centers, where our most vulnerable Veteran population resides, and we have been incredibly successful,” said Allen. “Since the beginning of our response, even before our Incident Command stood-up on March 6, we knew and understood how important Personal Protective Equipment would be to our efforts – luckily, our Supply Chain team is top-tier – they are innovative at streamlining the processes that move PPE from point A to point B and eventually into the hands of our front line staff.”
As the situation continues to evolve across the region, RVAHCS will continue to plan and adapt accordingly to continue providing for Veterans with as little interruption as possible. A main effort in the flexibility of the RVAHCS response team will continue to be SCM, according to Allen.
“I am incredibly proud of our entire team and I am humbled by the sacrifice of each individual employee and their families. During these trying times, adversity has brought our team closer together toward a common goal. Like the military, shared responsibility and partnership across a diverse spectrum of experiences contribute to a cohesive, mission-focused team, and we will continue to do well.”