With the ongoing pandemic, medical services are being relied upon more often. It goes without saying that medicine and treatments will always be needed in some capacity or another.
The 86th Medical Group provides healthcare services to three wings, Third Air Force, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, NATO, 139 geographically separated units in 93 countries and the largest Department of Defense military community in the overseas continental United States. The 86th MDG is the largest Air Force clinic and largest USAFE medical group, according to the Military Health System.
Laboratory technicians are an important part of the medical field. The analyses they perform support doctors and healthcare professionals by detecting and reporting physiological abnormalities and disease.
“We test patient samples from the military and the community — so, it’s not just members of the armed forces — to make sure everyone is safe and healthy,” said Staff Sgt. Randall Marks, 86th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician. “We also test unknown samples. If there’s a suspicious package with powder on it or something, they’ll call us up, and we’ll go test the substance to make sure it isn’t hazardous.”
The day-to-day job of a lab tech can change depending on their daily rotational schedule.
“It’s based off of what section you’re in,” Marks said. “You can be up front drawing blood from patients all day. You can be in chemistry and shipping where you’re testing people for glucose or preparing samples to be shipped out to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. You could be in hematology where you’re doing pretty much everything we do here. We do pregnancy tests, strep tests, urinalysis and blood differentials.”
As part of their mission, the 86th MDG provides medical support worldwide such as the support given to West Africa this past summer. Marks was sent to the base there to provide assistance with the pandemic.
“I set up COVID-19 testing in Niamey, Niger,” Marks said. “It was the first operating COVID-19 testing site in all of West Africa.”
During the course of a month, Marks tested five people who were symptomatic. Thankfully, they didn’t have the virus.
“I was glad they didn’t have COVID-19 because it didn’t stop the mission for them,” Marks said.
Ultimately, the 86th MDG continues to support troops, their families and the community at large. As professionals, they’re capable of handling anything this pandemic can throw at them as well as whatever else may come.
“We have a leadership team that takes no nonsense,” Marks said. “They don’t beat around the bush or anything like that. They’re very straightforward with what we need, our capabilities and what we need to do. It makes it easy to do our job correctly, and it allows us to aid LRMC with whatever they need.”
The 86th MDG leads the way in teamwork. Their leadership and the Airmen who make the mission happen are part of what makes this the World’s Best Wing.