- [S106] The Mountain Press, 6 Nov 2007.
Supplying troops McIntosh's role as soldier
By: JEFF FARRELL Staff Writer
November 06, 2007
SEVIERVILLE - Saving a soldier's life on the battlefield requires more than just medical expertise. It requires access to the right medicine and the right supplies.
U.S. armed forces have said they've done a better job of saving soldiers during the War on Terror than in any previous conflict. Part of the credit for that has to go to Col. Gilbert W. "Dub" McIntosh. The former principal of Pi Beta Phi, Gatlinburg-Pittman and Wearwood schools is an Army reservist, but spent the last six years on active duty with the Third Medical Command.
He helped oversee logistics in both Afghanistan and Iraq, seeing to it that soldiers fighting throughout the Middle East had not only the medical supplies they needed, but other supplies as well. He started out as a medical logistics manager, but would rise to chief of staff.
"That's one of the things Gen. (George) Weightman told me - 'We didn't lose any soldiers because we didn't have what we needed to have,'" McIntosh recalled. "That's as big a compliment as you can give."
McIntosh had served in the Reserve until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. As soon as they occurred, he figured he'd be getting called to active duty.
"I knew since I was the only single integrated medical logistics manager in the unit, I would be dealing with those issues," he said. "
Within five days, he said, he was working on efforts to prepare for troops to go to the Middle East. By November, he was called to active duty. He was proud to serve his country, he said, but with a career in education it wasn't easy to leave behind his students. He still heard from some of his students while he was overseas, he said.
"It's pretty hard when you get a note or a drawing from a school and you know you can't get back to them (right away)," he said.
But he knew he had an important job. He helped develop the logistic plan for supplying armed forces in what would become a combat theater. He did that by developing three separate warehouses, ensuring that they could continue to supply troops even if one warehouse was attacked or had to be shut down.
"Before I turned around, I'd spent well over $200 million just getting it off the ground," he said.
Having multiple bases also helped, he said, when they found themselves gearing up for Iraq even while operations in Afghanistan continued.
Overnight, his staff shot up from about 70 people to almost 900.
They had to make sure soldiers entering the theater had their allotment of Band-Aids and inoculations; they were also the ones making sure that mechanics had everything they need to work on helicopters, tanks and other equipment.
"It was a challenge," McIntosh said.
Logistics has changed greatly in the 38 years he's been associated with the armed forces, he said. When he started out, there was no Internet and no way to keep up with supplies in real time or generally even to request them. It wasn't until the Gulf War that they experimented with a computerized tracking in the field. "It was a pretty crude system," he said.
Today, medics out in the field can send their own request for specific supplies and expect a quick response. And they're still working to make it better.
"It'll be like UPS," McIntosh said.
McIntosh said he saw several of his old students serving overseas. He also had a much closer connection. His son, Travis, is a Blackhawk pilot and a major in the Army. As a father, he had mixed feelings about having his son serve with him - pride and concern. "Of course, that's an uneasy feeling," he said.
He's back home in Pigeon Forge now, and looking forward to enjoying some hunting and fishing -maybe coaching again. But he admits he misses his job.
"I'm lost," he said. "It's been a pretty big change for me after six years of putting on a uniform and going at it."