The Army has begun testing recruits for the sickle cell trait (SCT), and will screen all soldiers for it by this time next year. The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) wants to get a handle on how the trait could affect readiness. Sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder, can have serious health effects. Even though anyone can carry the trait, it largely is present in African American and Black persons. Its symptoms include low blood oxygen, high atmospheric pressure and dehydration. Sufferers may experience fatigue, thirst, headaches, confusion and dizziness.
The Army decided to expand SCT testing after a series of training deaths associated with the disorder, mostly occurring during hard exercise. Researchers are particularly interested in finding a way to determine if such incidents are related to heat or stress, or the disorder itself.
Approximately two percent of all soldiers tested since the process began Nov. 2 have been diagnosed with SCT. Its presence will not necessarily end a military career, but could present reason for exclusion from certain military occupational specialties. The testing will take place when recruits enter the service, and again during annual health assessments.