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How Recce Town’s Laboratory professionals are helping in the fight against COVID-19

Staff Sgt. Victor Mendez works in the lab on Beale Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. Victor Mendez, 9th Healthcare Operations Squadron lab technician, works in the lab on Beale Air Force Base, California, April 20, 2020. The lab provides doctors with accurate information to decide upon treatment plans. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

Airman 1st Class Miranda Bateman prepares a rapid strep test.

Airman 1st Class Miranda Bateman, 9th Healthcare Operations Squadron lab technician, prepares a rapid strep test on Beale Air Force Base, California, April 20, 2020. Results from this test generally take 20 minutes. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

Vials of blood sit in a centrifuge in the lab on Beale Air Force Base.

Vials of blood sit in a centrifuge in the lab on Beale Air Force Base, California, April 20, 2020. A centrifuge separates blood into its components so that it can be read. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

Staff Sgt. Victor Mendez reads a blood slide.

Staff Sgt. Victor Mendez, 9th Healthcare Operations Squadron lab technician, reads a blood slide on Beale Air Force Base, California, April 20, 2020. Reading a blood slide is looking for abnormalities in the blood. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

Beale Air Force Base, Calif. --

The impact that Recce Laboratory professionals provide to Beale and its communities especially during a pandemic where rapid test results can directly impact the spread.

It takes a lot to get an Airman trained in all of the functions within the Lab, said Tech. Sgt. Michael LaMonica, 9th Healthcare Operations Squadron (HCOS) Diagnostics and Therapeutics flight chief.

“Our technicians go through 268 days of technical training,” said LaMonica. “Then they have nine volumes of career development courses. Some people in other career fields will deploy and come back before our technicians are completely trained.”

All of this training leaves Laboratory Airmen qualified and ready to perform in an extensive amount of fields, said 2nd Lt. Britny Connella, 9th HCOS chief of Laboratory Services.

“There’s much more to the lab than just drawing blood,” said Connella. “We have chemistry, hematology, urinalysis, immunology, microbiology and even though we don’t have transfusion here on Beale, our technicians are trained in that too.”

The Lab still continues to provide all of these services to the base despite the current pandemic, said Connella.

“These are the kind of things we’re ready for at all times,” said Connella. “This is what we’re here for, this is game time for us.”

While the hours have changed, the Lab continues to see patients with the exception of anyone that is ill at the time. Along with their regular duties the lab is directly aiding Beale in the fight against COVID-19.

“We’ve worked closely with the Airmen on the COVID line to make sure that they have everything they need to collect samples,” said Connella. “There’s been a big national supply shortage, of collection kits. But we’ve been able to double our supply just with what we do inhouse.”

Doubling the amount of collection kits is not the only innovation that the lab has been able to achieve. The original time for a member of Beale’s community to get results from a COVID-19 test was five days. The Lab has dropped that time to 48 hours or even four hours depending on the priority.

“It’s really nice to have that networking and make sure that we’re providing Recce Town with the best care possible,” said Connella. “We’ve really cut down on that result time to make sure we’re getting people back in the fight and getting those that might be exposed out of the fight and getting them the care that they need.”

Being able to get rapid and accurate information about the spread of COVID-19 is crucial to maintain the health and combat readiness of Beale’s Airmen.

“Each person has their own individual part in the mission and we’re making sure that they stay in that mission,” said Connella. “And it’s not just active duty. It’s the spouses and the retirees too, because if our Recce warriors are worried about their spouse having an illness, they’re not going to be able to fully focus on the mission. We’re getting these samples and getting the results back to them so they can have peace of mind and keep their mind where it needs to be.”