CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, Sept. 21, 2011 -- Blood is a critical commodity in the event of a mass casualty incident and part of the emergency readiness process is finding donors.

The 47th Combat Support Hospital, along with Soldiers from the 282nd Field Artillery, 1st Calvary Division, held a mobile blood screening as a proactive measure on Contingency Operating Base Adder, Sept. 18, 2011.

"The reason we're doing this is for whole-blood drives," said Sgt. Christopher Monteith, laboratory technician, 47th CSH. "If someone is injured and we need blood, we put out a call for donors to come in and donate blood."

In the event of a mass casualty, or MASCAL, scenario, it is essential for blood donors to go through this pre-screening process to ensure blood donated is disease-free and poses no additional threat to the recipient.

"It can be a pretty long process from start to finish," said Monteith. "To speed that up, we pre-screen the donors ahead of time."

Vials of blood are taken from donors during the pre-screening process, to look for diseases that pose the highest risk of infection, such as hepatitis, HIV and syphilis.

Since the donors called in have already been pre-screened for any contaminants in their blood, explains Monteith, "We can call them in and if there is any information that needs to be updated from the last time we saw them, then we'll add it, and if there are no changes, we can get them right on the bed."

"We know a lot of these units are busy. They're out doing missions and they can't come in on Saturdays," said Monteith. "If a unit calls up and would like their guys pre-screened, we can come out and do a mobile pre-screening like we're doing today."

In addition to mobile blood screenings held at various aid stations on COB Adder, the 47th CSH holds weekly screenings every Saturday afternoon.

When blood is needed, the ability to acquire donors with the appropriate blood types is crucial to medical units on base.

"It depends on the emergency," said Monteith. "As far as donations, it has to be blood type specific. So if we have a patient that is O positive, we can only give that patient O positive blood."

"We can announce over the loud speaker to have all pre-screened donors come in to the CSH to have them donate at one time," he said.

Since the amount of blood recipients may require can outweigh the amount a single donor can provide, explains Monteith, the need for blood is always present.

"We can only take one pint of blood per donor, said Monteith. "Some patients can go through 15 to 20 pints of blood in their stay in the hospital, so you're looking at quite a few donors to save one person."

"Hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan stock blood products for use when patients are injured and require transfusions," said Col. Scott Avery, commander of the 47th CSH. "The Emergency Whole Blood Program is designed to be used only in the event of an emergency, when normal blood stock levels have been used by other patients."

Fortunately, we haven't had any large MASCALs, but it is better to be prepared just in case, said Monteith.