Lab Technician Helps Keep Wing Healthy

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Surrounded by vials, test strips and clipboards, Staff Sgt. Curt Runey sits in the small lab facility in the back of the 127th Medical Group facility at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Out front, scores of Airmen wait their turn to have their blood drawn or to provide a urine sample.

"I just love this job," says Runey, as he prepares a group of blood samples for testing. "I love microbiology, working with the people, working with the new equipment. I've just always been interested in it."

Runey is a medical lab technician who works as part of the team at Selfridge to ensure that local members of the Michigan Air National Guard are ready to answer the nation's call.

"We don't want to deploy anyone who isn't healthy and ready to contribute," said Major Steve Corl, a registered nurse who works with the medical group. "Drawing blood samples and performing related tests are an important part of that process."

In the lab at Selfridge, Runey is able to perform some of the required tests locally, other samples get sent to larger Air Force medical facilities at Brooks-City Base or Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

"Trust me," Runey says as he prepares another sample, "If there is something that needs to be addressed, we are going to catch it."

In addition to the routine testing done on all personnel on a periodic bases, the medical lab at Selfridge also collects DNA samples from all new enlistees or commissioned officers. The lab also performs a pregnancy test on female Airmen who are preparing to attend Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base.

"When you think about all the logistics and scheduling involved to send a person to Basic, you don't want someone to get down there and discover an unexpected pregnancy," he said.

Runey is the sole medical lab technician in the Wing, although the Wing's enlisted medics are able to perform many of the same functions, Corl said.

"It takes a team effort to make this shop run," said the nurse.

All Air Force doctors and nurses are officers. Enlisted personnel serve in a variety of technician roles that might also be found in any civilian hospital.

Runey said customer service and quality assurance are the two primary skills a person needs to excel as a medical lab technician.

"The biggest thing is taking care of the patient sitting in the chair. He or she is the customer and we try to provide good customer service," he said. "Then you have to follow that up with the quality assurance, making sure the right sample is labeled with the person's name or other identification."

To be qualified to serve as a medical lab technician, Runey, who also served in the medical field on active duty in the U.S. Navy prior to joining the Michigan Air National Guard, spent a total of 14 months in training. After the initial school at Sheppard Air Force Base, he spent nine months getting hands-on on-the-job training at Wright Patterson.

"It's just a very rewarding job," Runey said.