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Beneath the microscope

A sample rests under a microscope March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Besides blood samples, the 39th Medical Support Squadron tests many specimens to help diagnose patients. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

A sample rests under a microscope March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Besides blood samples, the 39th Medical Support Squadron tests many specimens to help diagnose patients. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, cleans the microscope after analyzing a sample March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians are trained analyst that help determine patients with their ailments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, cleans the microscope after analyzing a sample March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians are trained analyst that help determine patients with their ailments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, drops a specimen into a slide March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians are experts in analyzing samples and help assist primary care managers diagnose a patient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, drops a specimen into a slide March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians are experts in analyzing samples and help assist primary care managers diagnose a patient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medial Support Squadron laboratory technician, analyzes a sample March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians test blood samples, as well as assit primary care managers in treating patients based on their analysis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medial Support Squadron laboratory technician, analyzes a sample March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians test blood samples, as well as assit primary care managers in treating patients based on their analysis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medial Support Squadron laboratory technician, analyzes a sample March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians test blood samples, as well as assit primary care managers in treating patients based on their analysis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, places a specimen in a container March 28, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Lab technicians help diagnose patients, and also assist in detecting diseases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

A drop of blood or a specimen can tell a medical provider many things about a person from their oxygen levels to diagnosing diseases.

Here at Incirlik, the 39th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technicians take those samples and use them to assist medical providers with patient diagnoses and treatment plans.

“Every month we roughly analyze about 800 different types of samples,” said Staff Sgt. Samuel Murphy, 39th MDSS.

As one of the steps in the diagnosis process, some people may associate the lab with only blood tests and urine samples but those functions are just the tip of the iceberg. 

 “We have a lot of moving parts going on behind scenes that most people aren’t aware of from diagnosing patients with cancers to providing life sustaining blood supply,” said Staff Sgt. Jake Henry, 39th MDSS laboratory technician. “The lab isn’t as simple as most people think.”

Lab technicians are skilled analyst whose expertise provide patients and healthcare providers diagnoses but also must be up to speed on other tasks within their job.

“We have to maintain a lot of our competencies,” said Murphy. “Our career field is so broad that we are constantly learning and have to remain up to date on training and tasks so we can be certified no matter where we go.”

One of those competencies they must maintain is possessing the ability to activate a walking blood bank. The walking blood bank is a lifesaving program designed for deployed locations to reduce the waste of blood by using Airmen as live storage instead of normal blood banking methods.

“Blood expires every 20 to 30 days,” said Murphy. “We can’t afford to waste that much blood so why not just use the Airmen as walking breathing storage.”

Lab techs are just one of many tools in the 39th MDSS; even though it may not be the most known instrument, their impact is larger than life and ensures Airmen are ready to support the mission of Incirlik and its NATO allies at any time.

“Blood expires every 20 to 30 days,” said Murphy. “We can’t afford to waste that much blood so why not just use the Airmen as walking breathing storage.”