Saving the warfighter bloodline

By Airman 1st Class Azaria E. Foster | Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs | Sept. 25, 2020

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —

Most heroes wear capes while they save lives, but for medical laboratory technicians at the Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory-East, white lab coats serve as a symbol of their heroic virtue

Their efforts help supply blood to warfighters in need of emergency medical procedures around the world. 

“This job is incredibly important,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Warner, ASWBPL-East medical laboratory specialist. “We are the sole supplier of blood products for the U.S. Central Command. Our job helps support units that aren't able to test blood. We confirm blood types before we send the blood downrange so the units that receive the blood know that what it says on the bag is accurate and it’s safe to use.”

ASWBPL-East medical laboratory technicians conduct approximately 150 to 300 confirmatory tests a day in order to ensure blood type accuracy. This process entails using reagents to determine what blood group a sample is and whether it is positive or negative.

“If someone receives the wrong blood type it could cause a hemolytic transfusion reaction,” Warner said. “In other words, if the blood transfusion isn’t compatible with your blood type then your body recognizes the transfused blood as a foreign substance and attacks it, which can cause serious issues and even death.”

Performing confirmatory tests isn’t the only responsibility of ASWBPL-East professionals. They have also received, stored and shipped more than 33,000 blood products since the beginning of 2020. 

“It’s very rewarding to work in this unit,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Robert Pilla, ASWBPL-East director. “We do great things here. It’s very specialized and is singular focused, but it has far reaching impacts.”