CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - On the morning of July 10, 2019, Soldiers from the 349th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) began setting up their equipment at the 77th Sustainment Brigade resiliency tent to prepare for a blood screening drive.
The blood screening drive is not your typical blood drive where blood is drawn to store in a bank for use. A screening drive focuses on preparing for an event that large amounts of blood is needed that exceeds what the medics have in supply.
"The purpose of a prescreening blood drive is to know who is willing and able to donate blood in the event that our supplies here or in the Central Command area of operations run low, or in a mass casualty situation," said Maj. Kent C. Yuen, CSH laboratory officer in charge. "The process begins with some prescreening questions done by our staff, we draw five tubes of blood and run the same tests you would normally run to see if the Soldier is a good blood donor."
Hepatitis, HIV, and the West Nile virus are a few of the tests that are run to determine if a Soldier is a good donor. The blood is prepared at the labs here, then shipped to a larger lab for testing. The entire process from start to finish takes a few weeks and once a Soldier is determined to be a good donor, they are added to the list.
"We make sure we document all the important information in 'the list' to include a Soldiers' departure date to ensure they are removed from the list when they leave," said Yuen. "Keeping the list current will help in the event of a shortage and we need to call for donors."
Soldiers from all over Camp Arifjan attended the blood screening drive to do their part. Many expressed that it is rewarding to truly give something of yourself that could be used to save a life in the future.
"I enjoy giving blood to help Soldiers that may need it and it's so much easier to screen people before you need the blood," said Sgt. 1st Class Martin D. Malcolm, 77th Sustainment Brigade Aid Station noncommissioned officer in charge. "If a mass casualty event happened, you want to know which Soldiers to go to for blood, it's a very efficient way to be prepared"
Some Soldiers, who regularly give blood back home, were surprised to find that they were only giving a small amount of blood for a screening.
"I give blood all the time at home," said Spc. Alondra M. Rivera, 77th Sustainment Brigade air movement specialist. "I went in thinking I was giving a pint only to find out it was a screening. I think this is a great process to identify who is a good donor before you need the blood and I'm ready to give whenever they need it."
The 349th CSH has been on ground for three months and this blood screening is its third since taking over. The coordination and participation for these drives is partly the lab teams proactive outreach as well as command-driven events. The 1st Theater Sustainment Command hosted a screening drive last month that produced over 80 potential donors.
"When we took over a few months ago the donor list was at 50," said Yuen. "After three screening drives we now have over 200. We are doing all of this with a staff of seven and I'm very proud of my team and the work we have accomplished."
Blood screening is not the only mission for the Soldiers that work in the 349th CSH laboratory. This specialized group of medics provide laboratory services for all of Camp Arifijan as well as the surrounding bases in Kuwait.
Yuen, who started as a lab technician on the enlisted side, gets fulfillment in his job by ensuring doctors have the results they need, in a short amount of time, to make the proper diagnosis for Soldiers that need care.