Fort Detrick medical unit prepares for deployment

By HEATHER MONGILIO | The Frederick News-Post | Published: January 7, 2020

FREDERICK. Md. (Tribune News Service) — Eight soldiers marched into the Fort Detrick auditorium among claps and yells of “Hooah.”

The soldiers, the 6th Medical Logistics Management Center (MLMC) Team 20, would soon be deployed to Southwest Asia, where they will oversee distribution and supply of medical equipment needed to help treat members of the military.

It is a mission the unit has been training for at Fort Detrick, Brig. Gen. Michael Talley said in his speech to the soldiers. The unit has sent teams for the past 20 years to help support missions such as Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.

‘The 6 MLMC is a one of a kind unit, not only [in] just the Army but the entire [Department of Defense],” Talley said. “There is no other deployable Medical Logistics Management Center that sets up all of the classic, the medical logistics, from supply to the medical maintenance.”

The 6th MLMC will be deployed to support the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center — Southwest Asia (USAMMC-SWA). The Army Medical Materiel Center has three centers, said Lt. Col. William Tudor, director of USAMMC-SWA: Korea, Europe and Southwest Asia.

Although the deployment is not part of the troops ordered to the Middle East as part of rising tensions with Iran, the increased hostility between the countries can affect the deployment.

Right now, there are about 150,000 service members in the theater of operations, Talley said.

“If you think about having medical supplies, making sure that the equipment that we use to treat soldiers to make sure that they’re evacuated off the battlefield, OK,” he said. “They can’t do it without the capabilities that the six MLMC receive.”

Rising tensions may also increase the need for medical supplies, Tudor said. He likened it to a big store such as Walmart increasing the amount of business it does.

“So really it’s just more of the same to us,” he said. “And it becomes a little bit more critical.”

But it is “a little more alarming” when tensions rise, he said.

Tudor, along with the seven personnel he will deploy with, will be gone for about a year. Tudor will leave his family, including his 9-year-old son, Matthew, in Frederick.

“I was sad,” Matthew said of learning about his father’s deployment. “I don’t know how I feel. It just made my heart stop for a second.”

It is not his first time saying goodbye to his father, he said. He wants his dad to know he loves him and always will, he said, his voice slightly cracking.

With his father deployed, they will FaceTime, he said, or call if they cannot video chat.

While the soldiers are deployed, Fort Detrick leadership, the garrison and other Detrick personnel will take care of their families, Talley told the soldiers. The last thing soldiers need is to be worried about their families.

To the families, Talley told them that the soldiers were the best trained they could be. That the families were going to be OK. That they would be stronger at the end of the deployment.

“Because that’s what we do as military families.” he said. “We close ranks, take care of each other. You’re going to be OK. I promise you that.”

This deployment will be the sixth for Master Sgt. Kevin Cook, the senior enlisted adviser. He deployed five times to Afghanistan. While he cannot predict the future, he said he hopes the deployment will be his last.

Cook did not say goodbye to his family at the ceremony. He did that days ago when he left them in Hawaii to return to Fort Detrick.

“I told them I loved them,” he said.

Heading into deployment, Cook said it is important that the soldiers understand their mission and their roles. With five deployments behind him, he knows how important it is to plan for deployment.

“I’m excited,” he said. “There’s a little, you know, nervousness [as] with any other deployment. You think about tensions and things that could arise,” he said.

The soldiers will miss their families, Tudor said in his speech. But deployment also means getting to use their skills to help the war fighters.

With official goodbyes from the Talley and MLMC leadership and a badge change, the team was ready for their upcoming deployment.

“Team 20,” Tudor said, “signing on.”

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