January is National Blood Donor Month and the Armed Services Blood Program reminds service members and the military community of the importance of donating blood.
For more than 67 years, the ASBP has collected blood donations and supplied blood and blood products for the Armed Services. Historically, January is one of the most difficult times to get collect blood donations. Holidays, cold weather, and stress can get in the way of blood donations, sometimes making it one of the last things service members think about. However, just like the DOD, the ASBP’s mission back home and abroad is essential year-round.
“The need for blood doesn’t take vacations, so we really need our donors to continue making time to save lives,” said Stacy Sanning, blood donor recruiter and public affairs officer for the ASBP. "If someone is eligible to donate blood, we really do need them to help maintain the blood supply for the military.”
The ASBP’s mission is to provide quality blood products for service members, veterans, and their families, during both peacetime operations and at war. According to the ASBP website, “more than 1.5 million units of blood have been provided to treat battlefield illnesses and injuries.” As a joint operation among the services, the program has many components working together to collect, process, store, distribute, and transfuse blood worldwide.
“The ASBP is the DOD’s official blood organization,” said Sanning. “We collect blood FROM the military community, FOR the military community.”
To get to know the ASBP a little better, here are five things you (probably) didn’t know about the ASBP:
1. ALL the blood donated to the Armed Services Blood Program stays within the military. Donations made in the Kaiserslautern Military Community are sent with teams on real-world missions throughout U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Central Command, as well as patients in overseas medical facilities and on U.S. Navy ships.
2. The ASBP is the only source of blood products for the U.S. military in Africa. In the U.S. and throughout Europe, blood can also be acquired from local blood suppliers to meet needs. In Africa, most host-nation suppliers do not meet minimum FDA standards.
3. Each time a donor gives blood, up to three lives can be saved or improved. Each donation could be separated into three components: red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. However, Sanning said there is no way to know how much blood will be needed to save one life. “Just one battlefield trauma can use all the blood collected from an entire blood drive,” said Sanning.
4. Most military, civilians, retirees, family members and even local national employees can donate blood. Sanning said the FDA recently relaxed eligibility criteria to donate, which means many people who were not eligible to donate in the past may do so now. To find out if you are eligible to donate, read the basic eligibility criteria.
5. The Garrison community is crucial to the ASBP’s ability to save lives around the world. Most people can help support mission essential blood drives by giving blood, encouraging others to donate blood, or even by hosting or sponsoring a blood drive. During 2020, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz installations conducted 49 blood drives with 1,363 donors potentially saving or improving more than 4,100 lives.
According to the ASBP website, blood donors can likely give blood whether or not they have received either COVID-19 vaccine. Some vaccines may require a wait period before being eligible to donate, so donors should be prepared to tell blood drive staff which vaccine they received.
“Whether blood is carried in a medic’s rucksack downrange, transported on a ship in the middle of the Pacific, or administered to a new mother after labor, one donation could help save or improve the life of a member of the military community,” said Sanning.