By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsMarch 2, 2009
FORT HOOD, Texas - Needles, some people can't stand them.
Soldiers should be used to them, but often times, they still cringe at the thought of being poked in the arm, even if it is for a good cause.
The Soldiers of the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) kicked off a month-long blood drive Feb. 15 to support fellow Soldiers.
The drive, which is open to all Soldiers of the brigade and their families, is meant to demonstrate the brigade's commitment to help save Soldiers' lives and support the military community, according to Col. Larry Phelps, the commander of the 15th SB.
In addition, the drive is a competition among the companies in the brigade, Phelps said. There will be awards for the top three companies, as well as a three-day pass for each Soldier who donates blood.
But, the Robertson Blood Center isn't looking for a sudden flood of Soldiers, said Perry Jefferies, a donor recruiter at the center.
Jefferies explained that if several dozen Soldiers showed up at the same time, not only would they spend most of the day waiting - all of the blood donated would expire at the same time.
Blood expires in 42 days, he said.
"We need a reliable and consistent supply," Jefferies said.
Since Soldiers have to wait 56 days between donations, Jefferies said their goal is for Soldiers to donate four times a year, once every season.
The process is simple, Jefferies said.
Once Soldiers arrive at the center, they check a list of items that would disqualify them from donating, either permanently, or for a specified time.
If they qualify, they fill out a donor card and are interviewed based on answers to questions on the card.
Everything is confidential, Jefferies said.
Following the interview, the Soldier's vital signs are taken and a quick blood test is given. After that, the actual donation process begins.
Drawing the blood takes about 10 minutes, and Soldiers are asked not to drink any alcohol or do any strenuous activity for at least 12 hours.
After the Soldier leaves the blood center, their blood is tested for a number of different diseases, and is shipped out to where it is needed as soon as possible.
Jefferies said the center's first mission is to support the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, ideally getting the blood to the battlefield in four days.
If there is enough blood donated in a week, the excess is given to the hospital here on Fort Hood.
According to Jefferies, studies find fresher blood increases a wounded Soldier's chances of survival.
"No way we can say we're not doing our very best [for the Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan]," Jefferies said.
Phelps said the brigade's original goal was 100 pints, but, as of Feb. 26, Soldiers from the 15th SB had donated more than 230 pints of blood.
He now expects to exceed 400 by the end of the competition on March 15.
One of the first Soldiers to donate was, Spc. Greg Mummert, with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion.
Mummert, a Lanark, Ill., native, has donated blood four times before, but this was his first donation at Fort Hood.
He said the pass helped motivate him to actually go and donate, but it is something he enjoys anyway.
Mummert said he gives blood to help out fellow Soldiers, and it gives him a good feeling.