ASBP: Combat Blood: A Commentary
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Combat Blood: A Commentary

04/10/2017
By Joseph-Luis Kilgo, ASBBC-E Education and Training NCOIC, Landstuhl, Germany
Most laboratory technicians can attest as why our career field could be considered the secret hero of the hospital or clinic. However, we rarely see the immediate impact from our hard work. Processing legitimate test results is a thankless job. After seven years in the Air Force, as a laboratory technician, I thought I had experienced all of the wonderful, yet hard work a lab tech could possibly go through. That is, until I was stationed in Germany.

In Landstuhl, Germany, there is a blood donor center that belongs to the Armed Services Blood Program; it is the only donor center in Europe that collects blood from the American military community for the American military community. I am a part of the Armed Services Blood Bank Center- Europe, or ASBBC-E. It’s a team made up of eight Soldiers, three Airmen, two Department of Defense civilians and three contractors. Together, we conduct two to three blood drives a week. Every drive occurs in a different location. This means we have to pack up, drive to the site, unload, work the eight hour blood drive, pack back up, drive back to the donor center, unload, stock the blood, and restock for the next day’s drive. Once Thursday approaches, we process all the units collected throughout the week.

Processing is a daunting task that seems to never end. It can be both physically and mentally draining, yet our team is able to accomplish this every single week. Once all testing is complete, we label and ship the blood products to any deployed location that needs it. We do this all while still following Food and Drug Administration, College of American Pathologists, AABB and additional guidelines.

Our team processes red blood cells, liquid plasma, recovered human plasma, fresh frozen plasma, and platelets. Our mission supports the U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. European Command, Landstuhl Medical Center, and mobile medical teams. Essentially, anyone receiving blood or blood products in a combat area or a military medical treatment facility will receive blood collected and processed by us or our teammates at one of the other ASBP blood donor centers around the world.

Many of our donors are people who have had firsthand experience with a family member, friend or loved one who needed to receive blood and they know how easy it is to help. Most people who don’t donate are either afraid of losing blood or are afraid of needles. For those of you in this category, I urge you to reconsider for the following reasons: We never have enough blood, for every one unit we collect, a deployed site is asking for two units. This blood is going straight toward injured Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors. The people that are hurt defending our country can survive many injuries if they receive sufficient blood products.

In the past, I never took blood donation advertisements seriously; I didn’t believe that I would actually save a life. In our program, I can tell you that your blood will make a difference in someone’s life. You can be the reason a member of the armed forces lives to see their family again. Though a lab tech may not see the fruit of their labor, this mission makes it hard to ignore our impact. This job has helped me to realize just how much the lab profession contributes to the health and well-being of patients worldwide. We know who we are and we know what we contribute.

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.

This story was originally published in the March 2017 issue of AMT Events. Republished content may have been edited for length, clarity and to follow the ASBP style guidelines.