FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Blood transfusions can mean the difference between life and death for Soldiers injured in the field, and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is working to ensure medics have everything they need to support prolonged field care.
As part of that Army-wide effort, Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div. completed walking blood bank training at their battalion headquarters Jan. 25.
“A walking blood bank allows us to call on Soldiers within our own formation when air assets aren’t available for us to evacuate anyone,” said Sgt. Kevin McGough, 1-75th Cav. “We can pull from our own unit, donate their blood when it’s needed and sustain life. It gives Soldiers a fighting chance to make it to the next level of higher care.”
McGough said the walking blood bank works by drawing blood from Soldiers before a deployment and maintaining a written or online record of their blood types. That allows medics to quickly respond to life-threatening injuries with whole blood transfusions, a practice the Army used frequently in the 1970s and has recently refocused on for battlefield treatment.
Widowmakers who participated in the training went through every step of a transfusion, from placing an IV to identifying any problems that could occur during the process.
“I gained more confidence in being able to do whole blood transfusions,” said Sgt. Logan Delgado, 1-75th Cav. Regt. “It’s not something that we do very often because it’s just starting to come back (across the Army), so being able to practice as many times as we can ... it’s definitely a confidence booster.”
McGough said the unit aims to provide blood training at least once per quarter because of its critical impact on Soldier and mission readiness. This type of training is vital in combat against a near-peer threat.
“(During a deployment) if I have a Soldier whose blood type is A positive and I need to get that same type of blood to them quickly, I can pull that list of walking blood banks and say I need any A positive Soldiers to come based on who we have available,” he said. “From there we’ll do a blood typing to confirm and make sure it isn’t contaminated with any illnesses.”
Sergeant First Class Claudia Allen, 1-75th Cav. Regt., who organized the most recent training, said she saw the walking blood bank system’s value firsthand while on deployment in Afghanistan.
“We had a lot of Soldiers who were injured in IED blasts, and the walking blood bank was so significant that as soon as we called for a blood type, we had a line a mile down just to donate,” she said. “It’s better than just giving IV fluids, and we saved six or seven Soldiers’ lives that normally wouldn’t have made it if they were just given simple fluids. That’s why it’s very important, because it’s for prolonged field care and that’s where the Army is trying to go.”
Allen said the training was successful because it allowed the Widowmakers to put the skills they learned into practice through hands-on exercises, which was especially helpful since most of the participants were young Soldiers who recently joined the unit.
“I gained the knowledge to do a transfusion, what I’m looking for and the adverse reactions I’m trying to defend against,” said Pfc. Scott Loehr, 1-75th Cav. “I think it’s a very important skill to have, because blood transfusions have increased the survival rating of casualties drastically. Being able to know something like that, I feel like it’s definitely improved my skillset as a medic.”