By Mr. Perry Jefferies (Army Medicine)May 7, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas (ASBP, April 26, 2010) - Some places are painted with the colors of new flora and fauna each Spring. In others, rain and wind usher in the month of March and renew April with warm breezes and fresh scents. Central Texas often abounds in new growth, sharp rain showers, and strong wind gusts. At the Robertson Blood Center at Fort Hood this year are the sights and sounds of major construction and the excitement of new challenges and creative training.
The blood donor center, once the Army's main testing point for donated blood, is in the middle of a major change. When complete, Robertson Blood Center will be a hub for the Army's frozen blood program and the center of a major hub for predeployment blood bank training. With the closure of the testing mission, the RBC took on two new missions: frozen blood and plateletapheresis. Units training at Ft. Hood will be able to train on whole blood collections, frozen blood deglycerolization and plateletaphersis at the RBC; cross matching at CRDAMC's Transfusion Services; and field training with the 932nd Blood Supply Detachment.
Under a plan crafted by the Armed Services Blood Program Office and the Army Blood Program the transformation began with a transition to commercial testing and will continue until the very building and the foundation skills of the personnel assigned there is rebuilt. Outsourcing blood donor testing is projected to save the Department of the Army over $2.3M in 2010. The Armed Services Blood Program must deliver blood products to the military's battlefields faster today than in years past.
Colonel Ronny Fryar is the Army Blood Program Officer and was the director of the Robertson Blood Center when the transformation mission was developed. He says: "With streamlining and process improvements in lot release, and quicker turn-around times on donor testing results from outsourcing, the Army Blood Program is getting greater than 90% of all red blood cells to the east coast distribution hub (ASWBPL-East) in 4 days or less. This is a major accomplishment in getting fresher blood to theater."
When processes changed that affected both the equipment and staff at the Robertson Blood Center Colonel Fryar helped craft a plan that would make the best use of the facilities and human capital in place at the donor center. "The Robertson Blood Center is a great facility. When we were directed to outsource testing, I tried to think of ways to utilize the testing lab space and challenge the staff with new missions that would allow the center to continue to play a major role is supporting our deployed forces, families, and retirees around the world with blood and blood products. After the new missions were approved by the Army Blood Program Office and the ASBPO, I noticed how Ft. Hood could become a Center of Excellence for predeployment blood bank training. Everything that a unit could need to train prior to deployment would eventually be found at Ft. Hood."
Much work has been done to the center since Colonel Fryar's promotion and subsequent departure in 2009. While the center's daily collection mission continues, most of the testing equipment has been turned in or relocated and a major construction effort is underway. New generators and backup power supplies were installed, walls moved, and ceilings realigned to shoehorn in the massive freezers and other equipment required for this mission. In addition, many administrative offices and areas have been reconfigured to address new missions and the documentation requirements introduced over the last decade.
When complete, the center will have expanded the mission from collecting and testing to collecting whole blood and apheresis products, processing products collected at Fort Hood and Fort Leonard Wood, storing and maintaining a large inventory of frozen blood, and training military laboratory technicians on the latest deployable equipment.
Under the eye of the current director, Lt. Col. Dennis Dombrowski, the blood center will move into a new era of operations. Extra care is taken to maintain the high standards required of a blood donor center. Potency, purity, and sterility of all products is maintained throughout the transformation. The frozen blood program will enable the center to normalize the blood collection and distribution over a longer period. The relationships built through apheresis and frozen blood deglycerolization training will empower a new generation of battlefield blood banking and maintain the great linkage to Fort Hood that the donor center has.
Spring is a time of transition for the Robertson Blood Center and the summer will bring new friends, missions, and accomplishments. "We are looking forward to charging ahead with new missions and to continue the great tradition of the Armed Services Blood Program at Fort Hood."
To find out more about the ASBP or to arrange a military blood drive, visit the official web page at www.militaryblood.dod.mil.