FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Saving lives is no easy task, and it often takes a team of highly trained medical experts from various specialties working together to be successful. One of those critical team members who often works behind the scenes is - the laboratory technician or medical laboratory specialist.
Recently a group of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers in this specialized military profession honed their skills here during Exercise Global Medic 2023. Global Medic is a multi-component collective training exercise where forces from all components along with joint and international partners perform a collective medical training event to test their medical equipment, systems and procedures to help prepare for future conflicts.
"The important part about the lab is it takes the guesswork out of what nurses and doctors do," said Spc. Matthew Singletary, a lab specialist with the 345th Field Hospital. "Nurses and doctors are extremely educated people, but at the end of the day, the lab is giving them concrete facts about what is going on inside the body to help them make a further educated guess of how the patient is responding to treatment and what's wrong with them."
Singletary and a small team of Soldiers use their knowledge of hematology and blood work to collect blood and identify its type to match a donor to the recipient that may lead to saving a person's life. Medical lab specialists play a key role in the interoperability and success of the medical field.
"When it comes to lab work, I say nurses get most of the credit, and it takes quite a bit of time to become a tech," said U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Joseph Rodriguez, a lab specialist with the 345th Field Hospital. "It takes a year of coursework, and we go through rigorous courses like chemistry, hematology, blood, bank, urinalysis, and microbiology."
Medics, doctors, or nurses must first request blood sample testing to get the ball rolling. From there, medical laboratory specialists look at the requests submitted and the blood tests they perform.
“The accuracy and efficiency of the laboratory specialists, makes saving lives easier,” said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Milton Quiroga, noncommissioned officer in charge of the lab team, 345th Field Hospital. “Even though laboratory specialists work in the shadows, without them, the Army wouldn't be able to save lives as quickly and efficiently as they do today.”
When a Soldier needs life-saving medical care, they can rest assured that Soldiers like Quiroga and his team will continue to provide the most accurate and timely information possible.
"Physicians are providers who work in the background most of the time, in the silence and the shadows," said Quiroga. "But without the laboratory and my physicians, we cannot save lives properly and give a good diagnosis."