The Marines’ 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines is on the leading edge of implementing the first whole blood resuscitation program into a conventional war-fighting unit. The program is called “Valkyrie.”
The Special Operations community has been utilizing whole blood resuscitation for battlefield casualties for some time. Now it is the Marines’ turn to take advantage of this life-saving procedure. According to an article by USNI News, 2/5 is the first Marine unit to deploy with this capability. The unit is currently in CENTCOM. It serves as the ground unit for the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command. This combat role could potentially expose Marines and Sailors to dangerous combat environments, with minimal support and uncertainty over when a medical evacuation could be conducted. Given the unit’s mission-set, the Valkyrie program is the ultimate life-saving tool.
The benefit of Valkyrie is that individuals identified with O-type blood can serve as donors for the rest of the unit. About 30 percent of the population has O-type blood. Prior to deployment, a voluntary blood drive was set up for the unit at Camp Pendleton. Members were able to come in and have their blood type determined and tested for any diseases. The blood drive determined that 750 of the unit’s 2,500 members were potential donors.
Now on deployment, these 750 Marines and Sailors are a walking blood bank. Corpsmen and Marines have gone through specialized training to learn how to draw blood from a donor and transfuse it to the patient in a battlefield setting. The Corpsmen have a running list of donors, so they know exactly who to go to in case emergency blood is needed.
Another benefit of whole blood resuscitation is that blood can stay viable for four hours after it’s collected. So, if a unit is going on an operation that is high-risk, Corpsmen can draw blood and hold onto it, in case it’s needed.
These blood kits are easy to stow and carry as well. They weigh about two pounds, are flat like a laptop, and come at a cost of $135. Within the kit, there are two smaller kits; one for taking blood from the donor and one for transfusing to the patient. The entire kit and program are extremely user friendly, enabling everyone in the field to have the ability to save a life.
The hope is that the Valkyrie program spreads beyond the 1st Marine Division and becomes a standard for the entire Marine Corps.
To sum it up, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Madigan, stated that the Valkyrie program “is such an incredible life-saving tool. It’s beneficial to everyone, especially CENTCOM and the Special-Purpose MAGTF, that we have this capability to deploy wherever we have to provide life-saving care to the best of our abilities.”
Madigan said it well: “Whole blood is the best product we can give to save lives on the battlefield.”