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379th EMDS BTC delivers life-saving blood throughout CENTCOM

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Foster
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Public Affairs

With an ever changing battlefield, how does the U.S. Air Force ensure their service members have access to life-saving care anywhere in the world? For the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, all blood related products circulate through the 379th Expeditionary Medical Squadron Blood Transshipment Center (BTC).

The Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) continually emphasizes the integral role of Airmen in maintaining stability throughout the region. One of the ways Airmen fulfill the role is through the stable import and distribution of key resources - including blood.

With customers from the U.S. armed forces and even coalition forces, the small team often relies on volunteers to maintain readiness and expects a higher standard of the Airmen working within the facility.

“When we’re getting ready to receive or ship a large order we usually have volunteers come in to help,” said a 379th EMDS BTC technician. “On any given week, we could have 14 boxes leaving for anywhere. Having volunteers helps alleviate that strain.”

For technicians assigned to the center, flexibility is critical. Members must be ready to fill all other roles on any given day.

“There are four of us on the floor crew,” said a 379th EMDS BTC technician. “We all have our jobs, but if anybody gets pulled away, that shipment still needs to go out. We all make the effort to learn from one another so when that happens, we can still get that blood to the people that need it.”

To alleviate potential strain, technicians keep a close eye on every metric available- including the number of units, duration stored, the temperature of the refrigerator, and many more factors designed to ensure blood is where it’s needed when it’s needed.

According to BTC staff, this amount of data collection is significant because the center works as a transient point- storing blood just long enough to be processed, inspected, and shipped to a predetermined customer.

“What separates us from a laboratory is we specialize in receiving and shipping supplies,” said a 379th EMDS BTC technician. “The blood found in labs is typically used to run tests or is ordered through our center to use with patients. Our blood goes as quickly as it comes and anywhere our Airmen are.”

In an environment reaching more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit daily, transporting blood while maintaining its temperature can be difficult. According to BTC staff, blood must stay between two and ten degrees Celsius before it loses its viability.

To combat environmental constraints, blood products are shipped with dry ice and an insulated lining to ensure quality shipments.

“Blood needs to be kept at a certain temperature for it to be usable,” said a 379th EMDS BTC technician. “We never want to run the risk of ruining a batch because there is a patient somewhere that needs that blood. Medical emergencies happen and we don’t want to be the reason the doctors can’t save lives.”

Despite the size of the team, the BTC’s impact is immeasurable. Their hard work and dedication lead directly to life-saving care throughout the CENTCOM AOR, allowing for an untold number of service members and coalition partners to continue to carry out their mission.