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NEWS | Oct. 7, 2014

Medicine men

By Eric Sesit Joint Base Charleston public affairs

It's a small unit with a big name ... and an even bigger mission.

The command is the Medical Logistics Platoon, Detachment 3, Supply Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 451, and they are celebrating their one-year anniversary since they were established in October 2013.

This mix of active-duty and reserve Sailors, 11 in all, are a dedicated group of Navy hospital corpsman who call the Marine Corps Reserve Center on Joint Base Charleston, S.C., their home. From this secluded location, they serve as a critical shipping hub for medical supplies used during Marine Forces Reserve  training evolutions around the world.

"In October 2013, the 4th MEDLOG in San Diego and the 4th MEDLOG in Newport News, Va., disbanded," said, Lt. David Guajardo, MEDLOG inspector and instructor.  "All the Class VIII material (medical and dental supplies) used in support of the Marine Forces Reserve  was consolidated to the Marine Corps Reserve Center here on JB Charleston's Weapons Station. Initially, we didn't even have storage space for our inventory of medical supplies. We had to find seven intermodal containers and move them here to properly store and manage our inventory."

Those supplies range from bandages  and IV solutions, and full scale medical aid stations, to dental equipment and pharmaceuticals ... medical supplies shipped in boxes to wherever Marine Forces Reserves  are drilling.

"When the reserves plan their exercises, a key component to a successful drill is ensuring these Marines have adequate access to medical treatment if necessary," said Guajardo . "But along with the need to care for the troops, our Reserve doctors, dentists, and hospital corpsman receive valuable training, not in treating wounds ... they do that every day in their civilian practices, but training on setting up their facilities and becoming familiar with the equipment we provide in the field environment."

The process starts during the planning stages of an exercise when the Plans, Operations and Medical Intelligence personnel, or POMI, decide what the medical and dental needs will be for a particular season . The POMI must take into consideration the number of Marines participating in the exercise, the location, the weather and other local factors that could adversely affect the reservists' health. The POMI sends those requirements to the MEDLOG, which then inventories, packs and ships the Authorized Medical Allowance List and the Authorized Dental Allowance List in boxes or "blocks"   to the exercise location. When the exercise is over, the blocks are shipped back to the MEDLOG where they are inventoried and prepared for the next mission.

"I tell our Sailors that if you are in MEDLOG, you are in a service industry  in which it is our privilege to serve," Guajardo said. "Most of our Sailors have deployed with the Marines so they know how important it is to get our job right. It's personal to them. They don't want their fellow hospital corpsmen out in the field needing a piece of equipment and not have it. It could mean the difference between life and death of a fellow Sailor or Marine." 

MEDLOG is a small unit on a big base. The Weapons Station of JB Charleston encompasses more than 17,000 acres itself, so the almost 60 tenant commands are widely scattered.

"We're kind of isolated from big Navy here, working out of a Marine Corps Reserve Center," said Guajardo. "So it's important that we maintain our Navy traditions, work ethic, and core values so we don't lose sight of who we are ... U.S. Sailors."
Ensuring that sense of Navy pride and unit camaraderie is the job of leading Chief Petty Officer Jim Smith.

"We do everything together," Smith said. "We PT five days a week because we enjoy the camaraderie. We try to eat lunch together at the base club at least once a week. We know each other's families and we spend much of our off time together.

"When you come to a place like Charleston which doesn't have a large fleet concentration area, we have to go that extra step to make sure our Sailors continue to do the things Sailors do around the world ... volunteer in the community, get their degrees, and continue to get their qualifications," Smith added.

"Chief Smith is definitely the glue that holds this unit together," Guajardo said. "He built this team from scratch and the Sailors respect his leadership, experience and expertise. It also helps that all of our Sailors are a great, motivated group of guys who are proud of supporting the 107,000 Marines in the Marine Forces Reserve  with Class VIII supplies."