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NEWS | July 15, 2022

176th Medical Brigade Legionnaires leverage VSAT technology to go from “Good to Great!”

By Lt. Col. Kristin Porter, 807th MC(DS) Public Affairs Officer, and Col. Noel Pace, 176th Medical Brigade Commander

Sometimes we get equipment in pristine condition for our missions. But rarely. Instead, we often get equipment that needs a whole lot of tender loving care to accomplish our tasks. And sometimes it’s creativity and ingenuity from a civilian job or just luck, but in this case it’s Soldiers determined not to fail that find the “how” in still making the mission a success.

Soldiers of the 176th Medical Brigade “Legionnaires” faced equipment malfunction during this year’s annual training with their VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellites. In June 2022, the brigade had elements simultaneously training at a CPX-F (Command Post Exercise -Functional) and Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) in Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.; participating in Golden Coyote in Rapid City, S.D.; providing real-world healthcare services to communities in Nueces County, Texas., through the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Program; managing two Combat Support Hospital Conversions to Hospital Centers/Field Hospitals in Seagoville, Texas; and supporting the multi-compo exercise of African Lion in the country of Morocco. With a directive to bring the brigade’s downtrace units online for secure communications, the brigade S6 team tackled the task enthusiastically, only to find that neither of the two VSATs at IRT Nueces had a working phone or laptop.

This is when Sgt. Eduardo Lozano, from the 176th Medical Brigade S6 section and systems administrator advisor for a major civilian healthcare organization, envisioned the technical aspect of what he wanted to accomplish with alternative equipment. With collective ideas from the 176th S6 and 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) G6 teams, the working VSAT switch, and the blank laptop Lozano takes on all missions, the group established a secure internet connection and create a closed, secure, meeting via Microsoft Teams linking the brigade’s elements at six locations across eight time zones.

The brigade credits its use of Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” as a guide for improving its performance over the past couple of years; “confronting the brutal facts” -- getting the right people in the right positions and examining the technological challenges the unit faced. The brigade leadership philosophy emphasized leveraging technology in all aspects – enabling platforms to engage Soldiers and amplifying the use civilian equipment, albeit securely, to complete military requirements with CAC (Common Access Card) readers.

“The next level in us leveraging VSAT may be in using it for video telehealth consults to our DRUs (Direct Report Unit) - mainly in the MMB (Multifunctional Medical Battalion) or FRSTs (Forward Resuscitative Surgical Teams), which do not have senior O-6 licensed providers assigned like Hospital Centers or Field Hospitals do,” said COL Noel Christian Pace, 176th Medical Brigade Commander.

“Medical experts in our 176th Medical Brigade Tactical Operations Center (TOC) such as the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Dental Officer, and Chief Veterinarian could not only be Mission Command assets - in terms of planning, MDMP [Military Decision-Making Process], and the orders process - but also in terms of clinical expertise/consultation in working with our DRUs that only have more junior providers as well.”

Deftly leveraging technology and Soldier-resourcefulness to achieve optimized mission outcomes for the benefit of patients and personnel continues to be the standard of care in the 176th Medical Brigade — “where we Serve Proudly in taking care of our patients and personnel like we would our own family members.”