A Soldier donates blood during an Armed Services Blood Program drive at 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade headquarters at Fort Bliss, Texas, Feb. 28, 2020. | Photo By David Poe
On a frontline, a truck full of Soldiers has struck a roadside IED. The platoon scrambles to defend their position and Soldiers go into overdrive to extract injured comrades and get them to a medical facility.
There’s been significant blood loss — time is of the essence as casualties await vital transfusions.
Behind the lines, at places like the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) Blood Donor Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, as well as almost two dozen other locations worldwide, service members and civilians shore up a second frontline as the tri-service ASBP hustles year-round to collect, process, store, transport and transfuse blood and blood products.
Started in 1952 by direction of President Harry Truman, the local ASBP team, part of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, held a blood drive at the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade headquarters on East Fort Bliss, Feb. 28, 2020.
WBAMC Chief of Blood Services Capt. Annette Mott, the blood donor center officer-in-charge, who leads almost 15 drives per month, said blood products collected at local drives are either separated into packed red blood cells and plasma or kept as whole blood.
“Nearly all of the Type O product will go ’downrange,’” said Mott. “We sometimes send out non-Type O blood types, but usually we keep that here in the hospital and for the [military treatment facilities] in the region. The red cells go for people who need a boost in their hemoglobin levels … the plasma goes primarily to those who need a bump in blood volume — bump up their blood pressure — and need those immune proteins as well.
“We’re collecting whole blood, but we’re collecting one in a certain type of antibody that allows us to leave it whole and ship into theater whole,” she said. “That’s something that’s kind of special because that’s not something they’re doing locally on the civilian side. We keep it whole, the red blood cells, the plasma, the platelets all-in-one and we test it to see if the antibody levels are low enough that it wouldn’t be expected to create an immune response [in a recipient]. That’s what is taken to theater. This is one product in one bag that the Soldiers are carrying on the front lines.”
The center at Bliss is one of four in Texas and one of eleven in the Army. The donation center at Bliss is located at 2489 Ricker Road on West Fort Bliss.
Since the ASBP’s post-World War II start, due to battlefield advancements in blood banking and transfusion, battlefield mortality rates are at all-times lows for American conflicts. More than 1.5 million units of blood have been provided to treat battlefield illnesses and injuries through the ASBP, which also supports the peacetime needs of service members and their families for routine and emergency procedures.
Like their civilian counterparts, materials collected by the ASBP adhere to Food and Drug Administration guidelines for safety and quality. The ASBP is a joint mission between the Army, Navy and the Air Force.
Mott said while ASBP supports anyone who wants to give blood anywhere to save lives, she encourages donors in the military community to consider the ASBP because, as the official blood collection, manufacturing, transport, and transfusion program for the military, in most cases, donated products stay in the military community.
“This blood does go to Soldiers and their families,” said Mott. “When they donate to the military blood program, through the Armed Services Blood Program, this is the blood that goes ‘downrange.’”
For more information on the ASBP at Fort Bliss, find them on Facebook at @ASBPFortBliss. Learn more about the ASBP by clicking here.