Materiel vs. Material – It's More Than a Typo
By USAMMDA Public Affairs, published on 01/30/2020
Whenever someone new begins a career with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, they must quickly learn the difference between "materiel" and "material" – if they don't already know this, of course. The pronunciation is very similar, so this causes a problem for some, who may not have seen it in print beforehand. However, the team at USAMMDA is very familiar with these words, and their distinct definitions with regard to Army acquisition, and we'd like to share this information with our followers.
It's probably safe to assume that many already know and understand the "-al" version of the word, as this relates to many things in everyday life. The most common textbook definition points to the word as "substance" or "matter from which a thing is or can be made." Simple enough, right? So, basically, we can all agree that "material" describes pretty much anything, and everything, in our world. With regard to the Army, however, material (vs. materiel) would most likely refer to the things used for typical daily duty, such as office supplies like paper, pens, shipping boxes, paper towels, desks, chairs, lamps and thousands of other common-use items that are needed to keep the military running smoothly, from an administrative perspective.
So, at this point, things should seem pretty straightforward.
Now let's delve into the definition of the "-el" word, materiel, which is also pretty simple. In a nutshell, materiel denotes "supplies, equipment and weapons in military supply chain management," which are used by all of the Service branches. In most cases, materiel refers to the items needed by the force to execute a given mission. This can include tanks, planes, boats, guns, ammunition, missiles, protective gear, tents, food, and of course, military medical products and supplies.
This last example is important to the men and women of USAMMDA, because this is the crux of our critical mission. And, if you happened to notice above, it's called out right in the middle of our name, "Medical Materiel." The daily task of our organization is to develop and deliver quality medical capabilities to protect, treat and sustain the health of our Service Members throughout the world. The things we create range from drugs, vaccines and blood products, to medical devices, prosthetics and treatments – all of which are extremely important to the strength, health and readiness of our military forces.
So there you have it, and hopefully this clears up any confusion between the two words. Without trying to muddy the waters any further, just think of it this way: All "materiel" is "material," but NOT all "material" is "materiel."
We hope this makes it easier to understand the difference. But, if not, please don't blame us – we only report the information, we don't make it up! But if we did, it would be material and NOT materiel! (Well, as long as it wasn't being used by our military forces for a specific mission. But that's another story…)
We are working together to support our troops!