Fort Campbell’s community donated blood Aug. 24-25 during an Armed Services Blood Program blood drive at the Soldier Support Center, potentially saving hundreds of lives downrange.
Their blood donations will be distributed to military treatment facilities across the country and overseas. Soldiers also received screenings for a “walking blood bank,” which allows for direct blood transfusions in emergency situations.
“What that means is we’re identifying blood suppliers before their deployment,” said 1st Lt. Tae Kim, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. “And we’re getting their blood types downrange so when blood is needed in the moment it can be easily identified that this person has this type of blood.”
Soldiers also are tested for infectious diseases that would make them ineligible for donating blood, so medical providers can make sure any transfusions are low-risk procedures.
“Our second mission is that we’re actually collecting whole blood, which is different from the walking blood bank,” Kim said. “When we collect whole blood, we can make red blood cell components, platelets or plasma components, and we process them and send those out to the theater in support of downrange missions.”
As the Armed Forces’ official blood product provider, the ASBP processes donations from installations around the country for shipment to military treatment facilities. Fort Campbell traditionally hosts two ASBP drives a year to promote mission readiness.
“The impact is huge, and I don’t know if I can put it into words,” Kim said. “Without blood, you really can’t carry out the mission, and it’s a matter of life and death ... you can help your battle buddy by donating your blood and transfusing or using whole blood to make it into different components and treat injuries out in the field.”
Contributing to that effort inspired Spc. Jason Justice, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to donate blood to the military for the first time.
“I feel like we’re always in combat zones and people are deploying all the time, so somebody might need blood,” Justice said. “I just want to be a part of the greater good and maybe have a chance to save somebody.”
Justice said he has previously donated blood to other causes because his blood is Type B Negative, which represents less than 2% of the population according to the American Red Cross.
“I’ve always been told that my blood type is pretty rare,” he said. “And I know that if so little of the population has that blood type, it’s probably even less in the military.”
Blood type is a common motivator for Soldiers contributing to ASBP drives, especially if theirs is Type O Negative – the universal red cell donor. Sgt. 1st Class Jason Womack, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, is one of those Soldiers and donates annually knowing his blood is compatible with any service member.
“I’ve been in combat a few times, I’ve seen where it was really needed and whether they use it or not it’s there for them,” Womack said. “I make blood every day, so why can’t I give just a little bit to someone who needs it?”
Womack is also the medical platoon sergeant for 2-502nd Inf. Regt., so he spearheads a blood program in his own footprint and encourages fellow Soldiers to participate in ASBP drives regardless of their own blood type.
“When people think of the walking blood bank, they often think of Type O or Type O Negative,” Kim said. “But it’s not just Type O – every type of blood is compatible with individuals who share that type.”
Any service member or retiree who has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is encouraged to donate to the ASBP, Kim said, because each pint could mean the difference between life and death for a Soldier downrange.
“We’d always like to see more people come out because there’s no substitute for blood,” Kim said. “The more we collect, the more impact there is, and we’ve had good coordination with the command sergeant majors and units on post to do that.”