Taking care of service members first priority for first aid kit assembly party

Directions on how to properly inspect and put together a joint first aid kit (JFAK) sits on a table at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. Each JFAK is hand inspected and signed off by the inspector to ensure each item inside is not expired or close to expiration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

Directions on how to properly inspect and put together a joint first aid kit (JFAK) sits on a table at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. Each JFAK is hand inspected and signed off by the inspector to ensure each item inside is not expired or close to expiration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

Volunteers inspect and assemble joint first aid kits (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. More than 60 volunteers, to include service members and Command Sponsorship Program spouses, participated in the JFAK building event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

Volunteers inspect and assemble joint first aid kits (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. More than 60 volunteers, to include service members and Command Sponsorship Program spouses, participated in the JFAK building event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Jennifer Lotan, left, 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of war rescue material, assists Staff Sgt. Michael Sanchez, 379th Operation Silent Sentry space systems operator, put together a joint first aid kit (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. Sanchez was one of more than 60 volunteers who assisted in the inspection and construction of more than 1,000 JFAKs.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Jennifer Lotan, left, 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of war rescue material, assists Staff Sgt. Michael Sanchez, 379th Operation Silent Sentry space systems operator, put together a joint first aid kit (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. Sanchez was one of more than 60 volunteers who assisted in the inspection and construction of more than 1,000 JFAKs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Sanchez, 379th Operation Silent Sentry space systems operator, puts together a joint first aid kit (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. The JFAK is an upgraded version of the previous individual first aid kit. The JFAK ensures all service members use a common first aid kit while serving down-range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Sanchez, 379th Operation Silent Sentry space systems operator, puts together a joint first aid kit (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. The JFAK is an upgraded version of the previous individual first aid kit. The JFAK ensures all service members use a common first aid kit while serving down-range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Col. Timothy Martinez, 379th Expeditionary Medical Group commander, builds and inspects a joint first aid kit (JFAK) with Tech. Sgt Jennifer Lotan, right, 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of war rescue material, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. During the event, the group was able to inspect and build more than 1,000 JFAKs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Col. Timothy Martinez, 379th Expeditionary Medical Group commander, builds and inspects a joint first aid kit (JFAK) with Tech. Sgt Jennifer Lotan, right, 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of war rescue material, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. During the event, the group was able to inspect and build more than 1,000 JFAKs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

An inspection card is placed on a joint first aid kit (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. The JFAK is scheduled to replace the formally-used individual first aid kits (IFAK) that are carried by deployed individuals for use in emergency situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

An inspection card is placed on a joint first aid kit (JFAK) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. The JFAK is scheduled to replace the formally-used individual first aid kits (IFAK) that are carried by deployed individuals for use in emergency situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

Members of the 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron take joint first aid kits (JFAK) out of their respective boxes for inspection at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. The 379th EMSS has hosted several JFAK inspecting and building events as a way to expedite the process and get the kits to deployed members faster. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

Members of the 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron take joint first aid kits (JFAK) out of their respective boxes for inspection at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2016. The 379th EMSS has hosted several JFAK inspecting and building events as a way to expedite the process and get the kits to deployed members faster. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --

A first aid kit is a critical piece of equipment for service members departing Al Udeid Air Base to support military operations down range.

Warfighters can rest assured knowing that the military family at the base supports them as civilian and military members come together once a month to assemble and certify the first aid kits that are distributed in theater.

More than 70 volunteers attended the June 15 assembly party, and in two and a half hours they helped assemble and recertify about 1,300 first aid kits.

“It’s a really big job, as we’re talking thousands of kits that need to be certified every month. We are the only recertifying facility for the entire area of operations,” said Tech Sgt. Joseph Gill, NCO in charge of warehouse medical logistics for the 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron. “The need for the kits is always there and has been increasing as we’re seeing more people forward deployed.”

Gill added that Team AUAB is also now receiving and assembling the new Joint First Aid Kits for employment down range.

The new JFAK will be used by all services across the Department of Defense and is designed to fit with the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment-style protective gear. The new kit has a five-year shelf life and has all of its components individually compartmentalized inside.  Two tourniquets are attached on the outside of the kit for quick access.

Gill said the new kits need only to be checked, the tourniquets attached and then tagged. To be sure not to mix parts or processes, Gill holds separate assembly parties depending on how many of the new kits are received.

Gill said there was no way his small staff could process the volume of kits required every month on their own.

“If it were not for our volunteers, we simply would not be able to take care of our service members. They [the volunteers] show up every month and pitch in to get the job done,” he said.

The current Air Force-specific Individual First Aid Kits have a shelf-life of three years. The kits have two vacuum-sealed packages with various first aid components. Every month, the kits need to be recertified by replacing items that have expired with newer ones to bring the kits into compliance for another year.

“It is a unique situation here because we are the hub for the entire AOR and we process a huge volume of kits,” said Tech Sgt. Jennifer Lotan, also from the 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron. “I haven’t seen something like this before where so many people come to help out. It’s pretty impressive.”

Staff Sgt. Timothy Byrd, 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, has attended a couple parties and said he appreciates the community support.

“I’ve been deployed before to Afghanistan and Jordan, so I know the necessity of having a first aid kit on your person,” he said. “I never gave much thought as to how they were put together, so when I heard they needed help in assembling the kits, I was happy to help out.”

Local Command Sponsorship Program military spouses come regularly to the parties, finding it a good way to give back to the community and build relationships with the deployed service members who attend. They also bring home-baked treats to share with all the volunteers.

“It’s a good opportunity to be able to do something to help support the service members,” said Melissa James, spouse of Brig. Gen. Darren James, commander, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. “We’re a small group of spouses here, and it’s a different situation for us than being stationed stateside. So this is just a wonderful way for us to help out and to meet and talk with the military folks. I love the social aspect of it. It’s a fun time and for a good cause.”

Maj. Phillip Howell, from the 379th MDOS and who has attended five parties, said he also liked the social aspect.

“I’m a social person and enjoy meeting and talking to everybody,” he said. “I like the actual work of assembling the kits because it’s something I can do with my hands and physically see the result. As a psychologist, the help I give my patients is less tangible. It’s a very meaningful volunteer event because of the impact it has on the military community.”

Jules Hoehn, spouse of Col. Mark Hoehn, director of operations, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, has attended almost every party over the last year. Not only does she also think the parties are fun, she said she sincerely believes in the significance in what they accomplish.

“I was already thrilled to help out, but the importance of what we do really hit home after my husband was forward-deployed. It was such a good feeling to think kits I have helped assemble and certify were out in the AOR and that someone would possibly be using one of them as a life-saving measure so they could go home safe to their families,” she said.