PYEOUNGTAEK, SOUTH KOREA -- Blood supply is a crucial element to maintaining readiness for U.S. Army and allied forces, especially abroad.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea gained a valuable resource in August as the Korean theater's lead medical logistics agent received operational control of the 95th Medical Detachment (Blood Support).
By aligning efforts with the largest depot of frozen blood in the Department of Defense, USAMMC-K can further support U.S. Forces by synchronizing blood storage and distribution operations within the theater's medical logistics community.
"It brings another much-needed medical asset into the fight," said Maj. Chewanda E. Jones, newly-appointed commander of the 95th MDBS. "Most importantly, it provides an essential lifesaving class VIII product to our warrior as well as military dependents in their time of need."
The detachment can support over 30,000 U.S. forces in Korea.
"The 95th MDBS accounts for over 4,300 units of frozen blood and processes up to 1,000 units of blood annually to be distributed in support of Role 3 Medical Treatment Facilities on the Korean Peninsula," Jones said.
As the designated theater lead agent for medical materiel, USAMMC-K delivers continuous medical logistics support to U.S. Forces Korea throughout the full range of military operations.
"Whether blood is needed to treat cancer patients, surgical patients or battlefield injuries, Service Members depend on our products every day," Jones said. "Each unit is critical. As of right now, the 95th MDBS is the only supplier of blood and blood products in the Korea theater of operations."
Prior to USAMMC-K gaining operational control, both organizations functioned separately, except for during times of contingency operations. They each had their own headquarters and, often, competing priorities, which led to gaps that could potentially hinder force readiness, according to Lt. Col. Marc R. Welde, USAMMC-K commander.
"Before this transition, the two organizations, which provide theater-level medical logistics functions, weren't really synchronized," Welde said. "This alignment enables unity of effort and unity of command, two very important functions of military operations. It also enables the delivery of health care during armistice and contingency operations."
USAMMC-K, a direct reporting unit of the new Army Medical Logistics Command, headquartered in Fort Detrick, Maryland, held a ceremony on Aug. 9 to mark the occasion.
That same day, the center also formally welcomed Jones to lead the 95th MDBS.
"With the uniqueness and complexity of a unit such as the 95th Medical Detachment, comes a requirement to have leaders with high levels of competence, but more importantly, commanders with outstanding character," Welde said of Jones in his remarks at the ceremony.
"I trust that you have both, and your Soldiers will never settle for anything less."
The thrust to bring the 95th MDBS under USAMMC-K arose following a recent training exercise -- one of just two each year -- in which the blood detachment participated to integrate the day before the event.
Welde said it was then that he realized there was "a big gap."
"They didn't know how we operate and we didn't really know how to manage the commodity," he said.
Welde contacted Col. Derek C. Cooper, commander of the 65th Medical Brigade and Medical Department Activity of Korea, to discuss the issues he found during the training.
"Being a logistician himself … (Cooper) saw the benefit of the alignment and synergy which would be gained," Welde said. "A few months later, the alignment took effect."
While operational control of the 95th MDBS marks a major improvement in readiness capability for USAMMC-K, Jones said she also plans to continue building on the detachment's support role through expanded programming during her time as commander.
Jones wants to bolster the Walking Blood Bank Program, as well as continue building ongoing collaborations with Combined Forces Command, USFK and the Korean Red Cross. She said another focus would be initiating a blood platelet apheresis program to support military forces across the theater.
Apheresis is a medical process by which a blood component -- in this case, platelets -- is extracted from blood that is then returned to the donor.
"When Soldiers lives are at stake, we need to ensure we have the most optimized delivery of medical logistics support in place," Welde said. "After all, health care starts with medical logistics."