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Blood often an overlooked military need

The Army turns to newly enlisted soldiers for blood.
Wednesday, December 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:39 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

During a time of war, weapons, ammunition and food aren’t the only necessities for American military forces. One of the most overlooked needs is blood.

Ten U.S. Army reservists from the Columbia-based 7227th Medical Detachment will be spending the next year at Fort Hood, Texas, taking blood from newly enlisted soldiers.

It is the second time the nine enlisted soldiers and one officer have been deployed this year. Spc. Tracy Welsh, who returned from service in February, said the Army’s needs can be disruptive to her civilian life as a student and a laboratory technician. But dividing her time between the two can be refreshing.

“I break it into two different worlds,” Welsh said after a deployment ceremony. “When I’m doing one, it’s like I’m taking a break from the other.”

Lt. Col. William Walden, who is also being deployed with the 7227th, said his unit has adapted to the lifestyle of a reservist.

“You wouldn’t be in the Army Reserve, knowing you could be pulled out at any time, if you weren’t willing to do it,” Walden said.

Walden said the Army needs blood for a variety of purposes, both here in the United States and for the war in Iraq. Newly enlisted trainees are the best source, Walden said, because most of them have not left the country.

“They’re young, they’re healthy, but mostly they haven’t gone abroad,” Walden said. “You can‘t get blood from people who have traveled to Europe because of the mad cow disease.”

Walden said that because blood is a perishable resource, the Army will not keep unused donations past 42 days. Constant replenishment of blood supplies is necessary.


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