The U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) partnered with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to deliver $1.3 million worth of life-saving pharmaceuticals to the Paraguayan Ministry of Health for urgent treatment of intensive care patients with COVID-19.
DLA Troop Support’s Medical directorate received a request for support March 17 and coordinated with other DLA entities and SOUTHCOM to deliver the items April 16.
“This effort represents a whole-of-government approach [including] the [U.S.] Department of State, SOUTHCOM, and DLA to strengthen partnerships and counter threats in our shared neighborhood,” said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel David Gibbs, SOUTHCOM director of Logistics.
The request for medicines used to treat severe effects and symptoms of COVID-19 — 100,000 units of atracurium (a muscle relaxant), 110,000 units of Diprivan (an intravenous sedative agent), 3,000 units of intravenous sodium bicarbonate solution, and 5,000 units of enoxaparin (an anticoagulant) — was big, but not outside of the team’s capability, said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Shawn Dean, a branch chief in Medical’s Customer Operations Center.
The mission is unlike Medical’s other ongoing COVID-19 support since it was funded through an Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) appropriation in direct coordination with SOUTHCOM.
When the initial request was made Lt. Dean said he was ready to assist SOUTHCOM partners based on relationships formed over the past year.
“Early on, we saw that some of the requested items were scarce and at the cusp of what industry could support in the current COVID-19 environment, so we worked with our Customer Pharmacy Operations Center [CPOC] to provide availability and alternatives — different items, quantities, or doses that could still work to meet their requirements,” Lt. Dean said.
Yvonne Poplawski, chief of Medical’s Collective Whole-of-Government and Foreign Military Division, said her team jumped on the request immediately, engaging the broad-scope “cradle-to-grave” team effort it takes to carry out such tasks.
“We went out to several of our Medical supply chain team members to secure pricing and availability from our team of pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Direct Vendor Delivery/Depot Acquisition Division. We worked with our contracting folks and continued daily calls with our SOUTHCOM customers offering alternative solutions to make sure they were getting everything they needed,” Poplawski said.
Through the CPOC and with help from U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commanders Kyleigh Hupfl and William Agbo, CPOC team members and pharmacists, Lt. Dean coordinated a solution with SOUTHCOM that avoided delays in fulfilling the request.
Once SOUTHCOM accepted the solution, Lt. Dean worked simultaneously with: SOUTHCOM to prepare the final requirements; the DLA finance team to get the funding documents submitted and approved; tailored vendor logistics specialists Stephanie Nguyen and Sean Kelly to generate sales orders; and acquisition specialists Shairy Cartagena and Steve Duda to award the contract.
One concern for the team was ensuring the products were shipped with the right temperature considerations from vendor to end point.
“Cold chain was a big concern,” Poplawski said. “We never want to go through all of those steps and then have the products arrive compromised because of a temperature issue in shipment and storage.”
To ensure the integrity of the medicines, Lt. Dean maintained daily contact with SOUTHCOM and tracked the shipment to its initial point of delivery in Doral, Florida. Upon arrival there, Lt. Dean and Cartagena worked to furnish certificates of quality and performance for shipment and acceptance into Paraguay.
“We don’t do that on a normal basis,” Lt. Dean said. “But because the end users were the civilians in Paraguay, their Ministry of Health required the certificates.”
The medicines arrived in Paraguay safe, acceptable, and at the right temperature.
The Medical team has provided more than $8.5 million in support to SOUTHCOM through OHDACA missions since June 2020, with more on the horizon.
“SOUTHCOM OHDACA taskers continue to be where a lot of my team’s energy is focused in terms of manpower, and it has only strengthened our partnership with them; and that’s a good thing,” Poplawski said.
Missions like this strengthen not only the partnership between DLA and SOUTHCOM, but between nations according to a statement to Paraguay from Joseph Salazar, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy Asunción.
“The United States supports the people of Paraguay in their fight against this pandemic,” Salazar said. “Your government has requested our help, as do friends in a time of need.”
“The United States supports the people of Paraguay in their fight against this pandemic,” Paraguay from Joseph Salazar, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy Asunción.