Skip to main content

Military Health System

Final Days in Afghanistan: Lab Techs Stepped Up to Support Withdrawal

Image of Final Days in Afghanistan Lab Techs Stepped Up to Support Withdrawal. David Grant Medical Group Air Force lab techs deployed to Afghanistan in 2021 to support Operation Allies Refuge.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

It was a hot summer afternoon last year in Kabul, Afghanistan, when Air Force Master Sgt. Grace Hodge, lab services section chief at David Grant Air Force Medical Center, in Fairfield, California, heeded an emergency call for all hands on deck.

Hodge had deployed to Bagram Air Base, just north of Kabul, in April, as the lab team’s noncommissioned officer in charge. She and her team were providing COVID-19 and trauma support while also closing down the medical treatment facility at Bagram to support the final withdrawal of U.S. forces.

As the events in Afghanistan grew increasingly chaotic, Hodge forward deployed in June to a hospital at the international airport outside Kabul.

There, she and her colleagues continued to process COVID-19 tests, blood work, and other routine lab tests as U.S. forces continued the troop drawdown and provided airlift support during the final days of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Hodge also led the Blood Product Distribution Center for American efforts in Kabul, working directly with the U.S. Central Command’s Blood Transshipment Center in Qatar to provide whole blood products to treat wounded patients and service members.

ISIS Bomb Attack

On the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2021, Hodge was one of only two lab techs working alternate 24-hour shifts.

“I think I was the one on duty at that time,” she recalled.

The situation at the airport grew chaotic as the Taliban took over the area and thousands of Afghans, in their desperation to flee the Taliban, flocked to the airport to make it onto an outbound flight before the Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. troop departure.

Confusion and chaos turned into horror as a suicide bomber attacked the crowds, setting off an explosion that killed more than 150 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.

The attack forced troops to adapt their drawdown plans and respond to the mass casualty.

“Prior to the attack, teams were preparing to leave the area,” Hodge said. “Suddenly, everything changed, and our main goal shifted from COVID-19 support to blood supply and triage.”

She remembers the sound of pagers as everyone received the emergency alert.

“When patients arrived, it didn’t matter who you were,” said Hodge. “We helped anyone who needed it.”

Hodge, along with a team of lab workers from several other NATO countries, supported the trauma cases however they could, even providing toiletries, clothes, snacks, and other supplies the United Service Organizations had sent for the deployed troops.

“We were able to help a lot of people,” she said. “And I'm glad we were there when that happened because if we hadn’t been there, a lot more people would have died.”

A lab tech’s job during a mass casualty incident involves managing traumas, “making sure we have whole blood for the patients that need it, and taking blood samples for testing,” Hodge explained.

Much like the way her team did at Bagram Air Base, they “had to pick and choose” who stayed behind in Afghanistan and what capabilities remained operational.

“Some troops left earlier than us and some troops were retained [including Special Forces] in case anything else happened,” she said.

After the bomb attack, Hodge’s team still had to shut down the hospital at the airport in Kabul.

“We needed to complete the retrograde,” Hodge said, explaining the process that involves destroying patient records and other sensitive documents for safety as part of the evacuation.

Once the hospital was shut down, she boarded an aircraft out of Kabul with two important lessons. Lesson one: “Don’t take for granted what freedoms we have — always remember those service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice to have the freedoms we have.” Lesson two: “Always take training seriously because at any given time your role can change and fill that role to the best of your ability whether you are part of a security or triage team.”

Adrenaline Dump

Air Force Senior Airman Jacob Washington, a lab tech from Hodge’s team from Travis Air Force Base, deployed with Hodge to Afghanistan. 

“We were doing a lot of COVID-19 testing for different NATO countries,” he recalled. “We were processing so many people from so many different countries, fulfilling individual COVID testing requirements so [people] could safely fly back home to their country.” 

Leaving Bagram Air Base behind in June, the team continued their collaboration from different locations. Washington deployed to the U.S. military’s Blood Transshipment Center in Qatar, while Hodge headed to Kabul.

“When the blast occurred, a supervisor woke me up and told me to get to work — so I got to work,” Washington said. 

“Over the next couple of days, we shipped about 256 units [of blood products] into Kabul through various means because the resources were cut off and a lot of the flights were grounded.”

He said they needed to get “real creative with the ways to get blood there” including piggy-backing pallets of blood products on “flights with special operations teams that went in on much smaller planes.”

Troops at the airport in Kabul were in need, he said, and the emergency resulted in the troops assisting anyone who needed it. 

“The blood was going directly to the laboratory in Kabul whether it was for civilians, other services, other countries’ militaries … whoever needed the blood and was being treated as a trauma casualty at that time received the blood,” Washington said.

He recalled his experience in Afghanistan as unique because although he works in a large hospital, it’s not a trauma center. 

“I’m a blood bank specialist,” he said. “I know blood. I know how to give blood. I know who needs blood."

He acknowledged his training that prepared him for emergencies like this one. 

“Doing that was a very eye-opening experience,” he said. “It's really an adrenaline dump like nothing else. You find out exactly who everybody is in that moment.”

“It really makes you see the value of what you do firsthand, and I feel like that is something that I will not forget.”

You also may be interested in...

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 9 - September 2015

Report
1/1/2015

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Assessment of ICD-9-based case definitions for influenza-like illness surveillance; Incidence of syphilis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1 January 2010 through 31 August 2015; Brief report: Rate of prescriptions by therapeutic classification, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 4 - April 2015

Report
1/1/2015

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Medical Surveillance Monthly Report: The first 20 years; Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014; Hospitalizations among members of active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014; Ambulatory visits among members of the active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens among reserve component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens among U.S. military recruit trainees, 2014; Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, non-service member beneficiaries of Military Health System, 2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 1 - January 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Images in health surveillance: dengue and chikungunya virus vectors and prevention; Surveillance snapshot: self-reported malaria prophylaxis compliance among service members with diagnosed malaria, 2008-2013; Report of two cases of vivax malaria in U.S. soldiers and a review of malaria in the Republic of Korea; Update: malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013; Editorial: the military and its potential role in malaria elimination.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 11 - November 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Transfusion-transmissible infections among U.S. military recipients of emergently transfused blood products, June 2006-December 2012; Evaluation of extragenital screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia in HIV-infected active duty Air Force members; An outbreak of Campylobacter enteritis associated with a community water supply on a U.S. military installation.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 2 - February 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Surveillance snapshot: male infertility, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2012; Urinary tract infections, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2013; Human T-lymphotropic virus infections in active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2008.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 12 - December 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Development and implementation of a cohort review for latent tuberculosis infection; Brief report: number of tuberculosis tests and diagnoses of latent tuberculosis infection in active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, January 2004–December 2014; Incidence of Campylobacter infections among service members of the active and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces and among other beneficiaries of the Military Health System, 2000–2013; Glaucoma, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998–2013.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 10 - October 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Suicides and suicide attempts among active component members of the U.S. Armed Forces, 2010-2012: methods of self-harm vary by major geographic region of assignment; Risk of type II diabetes and hypertension associated with chronic insomnia among active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998-2013; Update: cold weather injuries, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2009-June 2014; Surveillance snapshot: influenza immunization among U.S. Armed Forces healthcare workers, August 2008-April 2014; Surveillance snapshot: manner and cause of death, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998-2013.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 4 - April 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013; Hospitalizations among members of the active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013; Ambulatory visits among members of the active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013; Surveillance snapshot: illness and injury burdens among reserve component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013; Surveillance snapshot: illness and injury burdens among U.S. military recruit trainees, 2013; Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, non-service member beneficiaries of the Military Health System, 2013.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 9 - September 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Fractures among active component, recruit trainees, and deployed service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2003-2012; Diagnoses of eating disorders among active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2004-2013; Erectile dysfunction among male active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2004-2013.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 6 - June 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Brief report: the geographic distribution of incident coccidioidomycosis among active component service members, 2000-2013; Brief report: mid-season influenza vaccine effectiveness estimates for the 2013-2014 influenza season; Surveillance snapshot: states with the most pertussis diagnoses among service members and other beneficiaries of the Military Health System, January 2012-June 2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 7 - July 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Sunburn among active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2002-2013; Brief report: sunburn diagnoses while deployed in Southwest/Central Asia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2008-2013; Surveillance of cataract in active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2013; Relationships between diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections among male service members diagnoses with urethritis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2013; Surveillance snapshot: cases of service member meningococcal disease reported to the Naval Health Research Center Laboratory-based Meningococcal Disease Surveillance Program, 2006-2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 3 - March 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Legionellosis in Military Health System beneficiaries, 1998-2013; Urinary tract infections during deployment, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2008-2013; Update: heat injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013; Update: exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1999-2013; Update: exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2009-2013.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 8 - August 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Spread of vaccinia virus through shaving during military training, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, TX, June 2014; Gynecologic disorders diagnosed during deployment to Southwest/Central Asia, active component females, U.S. Armed Forces, 2008-2013; Vaginal yeast infections while deployed in Southwest/Central Asia, active component females, U.S. Armed Forces, 2008-2013; Update: routine screening for antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus, civilian applicants for U.S. military service and U.S. Armed Forces, active and reserve components, January 2009-June 2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 21 No. 5 - May 2014

Report
1/1/2014

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Numbers and proportions of U.S. military members in treatment for mental disorders over time, active component, January 2000-September 2013; U.S. Armed Forces air crew: incident illness and injury diagnoses during the 12 months prior to retirement, 2003-2012; The geographic distribution of incident Lyme disease among active component service members stationed in the continental United States, 2004-2013; Injuries associated with combat sports, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010-2013; Surveillance snapshot: cauliflower ear, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2004-2013.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 20 No. 6 - June 2013

Report
1/1/2013

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Incident diagnoses of common symptoms ("sequelae") following traumatic brain injury, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2012; Outbreak of Group A beta hemolytic Streptococcus pharyngitis in a Peruvian military facility, April 2012; Arm and shoulder conditions, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2003-2012; The Reportable Events Monthly Report (REMR); Medical evacuations from Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, 7 October 2001-31 December 2012.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health
<< < ... 11 12 13 14 15  ... > >> 
Showing results 151 - 165 Page 11 of 24
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 20, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery