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The Role 2 hospital at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq where a walking blood bank was initiated for an injured Iraqi soldier on May 27, 2021. After encountering a roadside bomb near the Syrian border, a critically injured Iraqi soldier was transported to the U.S. base for care. Nearly 65 U.S. Soldiers, Coalition Forces and civilian contractors answered the call for volunteers to donate blood. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christie R. Smith)

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — After an Iraqi soldier was injured by a roadside bomb near the Syrian border, nearly 65 U.S. Soldiers, Coalition Forces and civilian contractors showed up to donate potentially life-saving blood at the Role 2 hospital here.

The Role 2 received a phone call May 27 from an Iraqi military nurse who said an Iraqi soldier had been critically injured and was en route to Al Asad to receive care. The 135th Medical Area Support Company, Wisconsin National Guard, prepared to receive the patient in what would end up being a great display of the close partnerships at Al Asad.

“You hope it’s a low frequency, high impact event that you’re ready for,” said 1st Lt. Mike Glime, the officer in charge of the Role 2’s walking blood bank and a physician assistant from Hubertus, Wisconsin.

The patient arrived with the Iraqi military and was handed off to Norwegian medics with the Al Asad-based Task Force Viking. TF Viking delivered the patient to Role 2 where he was stabilized enough to undergo surgery with the 745th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Team, then he was transported by the 1–168th General Support Aviation Battalion medical evacuation team to the Role 3 hospital in Baghdad.

“Everyone did their piece to get him to the next echelon of care,” said 2nd Lt. Jennifer Vanden Bosch, a nurse from Appleton, Wisconsin.

Within the patient’s first hour, he had used the limited supply of blood the Role 2 is able to store. In the hours that followed, dozens of U.S. Soldiers, Coalition Forces and civilian contractors answered the Role 2’s call to initiate a walking blood bank in an effort to keep the patient alive.

Despite their civilian careers in healthcare and their years of military experience, neither Glime nor Vanden Bosch had participated in a walking blood bank outside of training scenarios. Glime said it was not something they had expected to happen, but that it was something they had been prepared for.

“Without that initial blood, we would not have been able to stabilize him enough to get him out of here,” said Maj. Steven Schoeny, the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based 135th MCAS commander and a medical operations officer from Sparta, Wisconsin.

When a walking blood bank is initiated, a base-wide call goes out to U.S. service members and civilian contractors who have an O blood type and who have been previously screened to ensure their blood is safe for donating.

Within five minutes of the call going out, volunteers were lining up outside the Role 2, Vanden Bosch said. Available Role 2 medics immediately began drawing blood; when all the medics were busy, the Role 2 veterinarian stepped in to help, ultimately drawing three units of blood herself.

Schoeny said the Role 2 received calls from countless others who wanted to know how they could help. The fact that the injured soldier was an Iraqi never weighed on anyone’s mind.

“The volunteers didn’t know who he was or what was wrong, but they wanted to help,” Schoeny said.