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Team Dover Supports Life Saving Mission

Senior Airman Frank Houdek, 436th Aerial Port Squadron truck dock specialist, scans and processes a shipment of blood into the Global Air Transportation Execution System Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Twice a week, Airmen at the truck dock stand by, ready to offload and process the blood shipments as soon as they arrive.

Senior Airman Frank Houdek, 436th Aerial Port Squadron truck dock specialist, scans and processes a shipment of blood into the Global Air Transportation Execution System Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Twice a week, Airmen at the truck dock stand by, ready to offload and process the blood shipments as soon as they arrive. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Mauricio Campino)

Team Dover Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron Special Handling section palletize a shipment of blood bound for overseas Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The shipment of blood products must reach their overseas destination within 72 hours of being packaged at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, requiring precise coordination from the various sections involved.

Team Dover Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron Special Handling section palletize a shipment of blood bound for overseas Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The shipment of blood products must reach their overseas destination within 72 hours of being packaged at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, requiring precise coordination from the various sections involved. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Mauricio Campino)

Team Dover Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load pallets onto a commercial cargo aircraft Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Blood shipments arrive via truck from the Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory East at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and are typically airborne on an aircraft within two to six hours.

Team Dover Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load pallets onto a commercial cargo aircraft Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Blood shipments arrive via truck from the Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory East at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and are typically airborne on an aircraft within two to six hours. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Mauricio Campino)

Pallets loaded onto a commercial cargo aircraft are prepped for transportation to an overseas destination Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Blood shipments are deliberately loaded as last in to ensure the blood is the first cargo offloaded when it arrives at its destination.

Pallets loaded onto a commercial cargo aircraft are prepped for transportation to an overseas destination Aug. 2, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Blood shipments are deliberately loaded as last in to ensure the blood is the first cargo offloaded when it arrives at its destination. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Mauricio Campino)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. – Dover Air Force Base is home to the largest aerial port in the Department of Defense. Everything from mail to tactical vehicles move through the port, all in support of military personnel and their families stationed overseas and service members deployed to combat zones. But twice a week a potentially life-saving shipment moves through the port…human blood.

Since 1952 the Armed Services Blood Program has been collecting, processing and distributing blood products for the military community. Following the Korean War, the ASBP became the sole provider of blood and blood products for the U.S. armed forces. During times of both peace and war, the mission of the ASBP is to provide quality blood products in support of contingency operations, military exercises, Veterans Affairs hospitals and civilian emergencies worldwide. Spearheading that mission is the Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory East at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst where a variety of blood products are gathered, stored and distributed.

“The process of receiving, testing and shipping is a multi-faceted process. Our team here works as a well-oiled machine; this reflects the teamwork and the family environment encouraged at ASWBPL,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Waples, Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory East quality assurance program manager.

Shipments of blood products must reach their overseas destination within 72 hours of being packaged at Joint Base MDL. Twice a week refrigerated trucks carrying blood products from Joint Base MDL arrive at Dover AFB. Team Dover Airmen at the aerial port truck dock are notified when the truck is en route and stand by ready to receive it. Within minutes of the truck pulling up to the dock, the blood shipment is offloaded, scanned and processed into the Global Air Transportation Execution System to track it to destinations overseas.

The blood is then moved to the Special Handling section. Should flights be delayed due to mechanical issues or extreme weather, the Airmen at Special Handling are trained and equipped to properly store and repack the shipment in ice if necessary. Special care is always taken to ensure the boxes containing the blood are properly palletized. While this is happening, the Load Planning section configures the proper pallet arrangement. Pallets with blood shipments are perishable and loaded according to a last in, first out process. This allows the blood to be the first cargo offloaded when it arrives at its destination. Finally, it’s the task of the Ramp Operations section to get the blood loaded on the aircraft.

This is a mission that requires precise coordination and teamwork from the ASWBPL and the various sections of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, but it’s a mission they’re proud to have.

“If we can do our part to save a life or two or 200, we’ll do it,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Metz, 436th Aerial Port Squadron ramp operations supervisor.