The 15 soldiers of the 379th Blood Support Detachment will embark on a new journey as they leave for the unit’s first deployment to Afghanistan. This nine-month deployment also marks the unit’s first deployment since Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The detachment is an Army Reserve unit out of Newtown Square, Pa., and has spent four weeks at Fort Hood since January to prepare for its deployment, but the efforts to get to this point stretches beyond those four weeks. The journey began with a new lieutenant assigned to rebuild a unit that was nonexistent when she took command.
During their four weeks of training at Fort Hood, the detachment received a visit by Brig. Gen. John Donnelly III, deputy commander for the 3rd Medical Command Deployment Support. Donnelly made the visit to Fort Hood to see the progress of the unit, and to wish them well before their deployment.
“It’s a real special privilege for me to come and see you guys,” Donnelly said to detachment soldiers. “I commanded this unit back when it was the 379th Blood Bank Headquarters from ’88 to ’92, went to Desert Storm/Desert Shield, came back and folded the flag in ’92.”
It was not until Nov. 11, 2011, when the detachment was activated again since it went away in 1992.
“I read the orders and stood them up,” said Lt. Col. Lesley Watts, commander of the 424th Multifunctional Medical Battalion during that time.
Watts brought in 1st Lt. Tonia Lowe, a microbiologist, to stand up the detachment and command the unit. “Lt. Lowe was the detachment commander, and she built that unit up from the ground,” Watts said. “She had everyone sent to school and (job) qualified.”
Capt. Peter Martin, current commander of the detachment took over on April 1, 2013. Watts noted the dedication from Martin by saying, “he flew in on a monthly basis” to Pennsylvania.
Being trained and ready to go, Martin has a familiar concern for their deployment. When asked what challenges he sees on their upcoming deployment, Martin’s response was “safety concerns for the troops and staying in constant communication with Kandahar Air Field.”
Main operations for the detachment will be split between Bagram Air Field where Martin will be, and at Kandahar Air Field which will be led by the detachment’s executive officer Capt. David Spring.
The soldiers spent part of their four weeks of training at Fort Hood to fine-tune their skills in drawing, preserving and maintaining, and the transportation and transfer of blood. The detachment will provide much needed blood to hospitals and surgical teams in their perspective areas of operation in Afghanistan during their nine-month deployment.