CAMP CARROLL, South Korea -- In terms of medical readiness, the 95th Medical Detachment-Blood Support is literally the lifeblood of U.S. Forces on the Korean Peninsula.
With its dual mission in peacetime and in preparation for hostilities, the 95th MDBS carried out a field training exercise in August to test its prescreening procedures and practice operations for a large-scale blood collection event.
“In a tactical environment where the availability of blood products for transfusion is not always readily accessible, the establishment of an emergency whole blood collection, or EWBC, program becomes crucial to the survivability of combat wounds,” said Maj. Chewanda Jones, commander of the 95th MDBS.
Hemorrhaging is the leading cause of preventable deaths during war. While a majority of casualties require smaller amounts of blood transfusions, 5% to 8% of evacuated casualties lose large volumes and need more than 10 units over a 24-hour period of initial care.
In the event of such a major blood-loss situation, the EWBC program ensures a crucial lifeline when standard blood products are exhausted or unavailable.
The largest forward-deployed frozen blood supply in the Department of Defense, the 95th MDBS accounts for over 4,300 units of frozen blood and processes up to 1,000 units annually to support over 30,000 personnel across U.S. Forces Korea, or USFK, and medical treatment facilities on the Korean Peninsula.
The 95th MDBS operates under the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command.
Under guidance of Maj. Ronnie Hill, director of the Korea Area Joint Blood Program Office assigned to USFK, the EWBC program in Korea was implemented to support treatment of critical front-line injuries by establishing a pool of donors cleared of transfusion-transmitted diseases, or TTD.
“The EWBC program allows for prescreened donors to donate a unit of whole blood in an emergency situation,” Jones said. “This FTX is an opportunity for our team to showcase what we bring to the fight.”
The exercise, which took place from Aug. 10 to Aug. 14 at Camp Carroll and Camp Humphreys, called for teams to set up emergency blood-collection sites. Participants were provided information about the process, then seven vials of blood were drawn from each donor for testing.
In total, the unit had 81 participants from the 65th Medical Brigade, resulting in over 550 tubes of blood collected over a two-day period, Jones said. Each donor that received a negative TTD test was then added to the roster of available donors, like a walking blood bank.
“In combat, when critical injuries occur, providing lifesaving care as soon as possible is essential to saving lives,” Jones said. “It is important to conduct drills on equipment operation and setup because you never know when and where blood will be needed.”
The exercise underscored the importance of collaboration, Jones added. The unit’s effort was augmented by logistical support from the 65th Medical Brigade, 563rd Medical Logistical Company and 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
“The support we received from our sister units was essential to mission success,” Jones said. “Without their assistance with moving equipment, we would not have been able to execute the mission.”
Hill commended Jones, Sgt. 1st Class Marina Prewitt and the rest of the 95th MDBS for a well-executed exercise that ensures the unit maintains a “fight tonight” level of readiness.
“This initiative has improved 95th’s ability to respond and conduct an emergency blood drive for contingency response, but also improves the ability of medical providers to treat contingency related trauma,” Hill said. “This event provided for up to 81 new donors to provide life-saving blood for emergency use when needed.”