WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2006 - It's a little-known fact that about 20 percent of servicemembers donate blood, compared to less than 5 percent of the civilian populace, the director of the U.S. military's blood program said here today.

This year, the Armed Services Blood Program will collect about 160,000 units or pints of blood products, Navy Cmdr. Michael C. Libby said during a Pentagon Channel interview.

"That's 20 percent more than last year, and that's twice as much as we did in 2001," Libby said. That's possible, he said, because of the great generosity of the program's donors.

National Volunteer Blood Donor Month is in January. That is the traditional time, Libby said, when the ASBP salutes its donors for their generosity.

"It is because of them that the program is very successful and we can support our warfighters," Libby said.

The ASBP collects blood only from servicemembers, government civilians, retirees and their family members. The U.S. military needs blood every day for critically injured troops, cancer patients, premature infants and other uses, Libby said.

The program manages 18 stateside blood donor centers, he said, and four overseas centers. Donors normally give about a pint of blood at a sitting.

Most people who are eligible to donate provide blood to the program, Libby said. Only a small percentage may be restricted from doing so because of their travel to certain countries or the taking of certain medications.

Specific information on these conditions may be found on the program's Web site, www.militaryblood.dod.mil.

Blood is always needed, Libby said, noting blood products normally must be replenished about 42 days after being collected. Frozen blood, on the other hand, can be stored for years.