The Army’s only deployable, theater-level area medical laboratory unit conducted a successful training exercise at Fort Bragg in September. Being the only one of its kind in the Army, the unit has great responsibility to be proficient in its skill sets and ready for any mission.
During the exercise, the unit honed its skills in the mobile laboratory and through several mock deployment scenarios.
The 1st Area Medical Laboratory, part of the 44th Medical Brigade at Fort Bragg, is headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The 43-Soldier team, 30 of whom are available at all times, test air, water, soil, food, waste and vectors, insect, animal, and blood, for a broad range of microbiological, radiological and chemical contaminants.
They operate as a level-four, field laboratory when samples cannot be transported to a secure facility in less than 24 hours or if results are needed in less than 20 days.
The unit is also able to support multiple, preventive maintenance detachments with surveillance oversight, sample management and rapid laboratory analysis.
“It is so important to have a rapidly deployable area medical laboratory unit everywhere the military deploys, whether in combat or non-combat environments. We can give results of any intentional or non-intentional environmental contaminates within a short amount of time. This saves time for the combatant commander on the ground, because samples will not need to be sent to the (continental United States) for results,” said Col. Anthony Bostick, commander, 1st AML, and native of Monterey, Calif.
“Our job is basically to report what we found after analyzing the samples, inform the command of the effect it will have on the troops and provide our recommendations to make sure everyone is protected,” said Spc. Cody Myers, medical laboratory specialist, 1st AML, 44th Medical Bde., and native of Grayling, Mich.
In contingency operations, the 1st AML is able to immediately identify hazards in high risk environments with chemical or biological agent contamination, epidemic disease or industrial contamination.
“It makes me and the rest of the unit extremely proud and honored that we have the capability of protecting Soldiers from possible threats,” said Bostick.
In order to facilitate the needs of a smaller, more mobile field unit, Bostick reorganized his unit into six smaller teams. Each team is made up of biological, chemical and occupational health, using only 10 to 11 people instead of the full, 43-Soldier team.
“It’s pleasing to work in an environment that I know is going to be directly affecting the troops who are downrange and the missions occurring right now. What we do back home, that affects them, but not on an immediate time basis like when we’re supporting missions downrange,” said Capt. David Kingery, biochemist, 1st AML, 44th Medical Bde., and native of Frederick, Md.
The mission and need of a deployable medical laboratory in the military was recognized in 1991, and the Army began planning immediately to create the 520th Theater Army Medical Laboratory, which was activated on Oct. 16, 1995, at Aberdeen Proving Ground. In 2004, under the medical engineering initiative, the 520th TAML was replaced with two units – the 1st and 9th AML. In July 2012, the 9th AML was deactivated, leaving the 1st AML the only medical unit of its kind in the Army.
The unit most recently completed a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“In any environment our troops occupy, we should be there so we can be aware of any immediate threats or threats that may affect the troops years after they have departed the area,” said Bostick.