FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - The Armed Services Blood Program, the official blood program of the U.S. military, made its way here last month, hosting “Arctic Thunder” blood drives Aug. 23-25.
This was an historical first for the program, having never been to this installation to host a drive. The Fort Wainwright community took this opportunity to help save lives of fellow service members and their families in need of blood worldwide; the response was overwhelming.
The drive exceeded goals, with almost 800 donors showing up, collecting hundreds of blood donations over three days at the Douthit Army Reserve Center.
The idea for the drive started with Col. Alicia Surrey, deputy commander of nursing at Bassett Army Community Hospital, who reached out to the Armed Services Blood Bank Center-Pacific Northwest, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
“Our team at [U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Alaska] understands the challenges in getting the blood we need to the Alaskan Interior,” Surrey explained. “I approached Maj. Gen. [Brian] Eifler (commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division) about hosting a community blood drive and he fully supported the initiative – so much so, he wanted to be the first in line!”
Thus began the planning process.
Maj. Joshua Martinez, chief of the ASBBC-PNW, said, “We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with 1/11 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Bassett Army Community Hospital, and the rest of the Fort Wainwright community to host this inaugural military blood drive.”
ASBBC-PNW teamed up with the ASBP blood donor center at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii, along with support from personnel from JBLM's 153rd Blood Detachment, and made their way north to conduct the drive.
“The response from our Fort Wainwright community was incredible,” Surrey stated. “It was an honor and privilege to be a part of this call to action. When it comes to saving lives, every drop counts!”
Many leaders came in to donate and of course, Eifler was first in line - as promised - along with Command Sgt. Maj. Vern Daley, the 11th Airborne Division command sergeant major. Support from leadership was plentiful, with Canadian army Brig. Gen. Louis M. Lapointe, the division's deputy commanding general for operations, also donating. Numerous battalion commanders donated as well.
Donors from across the installation and community showed up, from leaders such as Surrey and Col. James Watts, commander of MEDDAC-Alaska and Bassett Army Community Hospital, to hospital personnel, military and civilian alike. In addition to the many brigade Soldiers who made lifesaving donations, garrison support personnel, dependents, and retirees also donated.
Many donors were unaware of the military’s blood program and learned a lot about the ASBP mission during the registration phase of the process, they said. Donors were happy to know that their donation directly impacts and goes to the military family community. There is no replacement for donated blood; it is considered a treatment for those with blood-borne illnesses, helps heal severe burns, provides life stabilizing capability in emergencies and much more.
“The overwhelming donor support and commitment over the three-day event will have lasting impacts to Soldiers, civilians, and family members of the ‘Artic Angels’,” Martinez said. “Additionally, the training opportunities and the overall logistical lessons learned during the event will allow the 11th Airborne Division to develop tactics, techniques and procedures surrounding blood storage and distribution in order to offer more robust medical support in such a challenging operational environment.
“We hope to continue collaborating with Fort Wainwright, Bassett Army Community Hospital, and the 11th Airborne Division to host more blood drives and training opportunities in the future,” Martinez added.
The ASBP is grateful for the tremendous support from the leadership and community at Fort Wainwright for this first-time drive, and looks looking forward to next time, to include the Eielson Air Force Base community as well.
About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program is the official blood program of the United States military. Our mission is to provide quality blood products and support to military health care operations worldwide; from the battlefield to the local hospital, whenever and wherever needed. The ASBP collects, processes, stores, transports, and distributes blood products to service members, their families, retirees and veterans in peace and war. In an ASBP Enterprise view – Military Health Affairs, Defense Health Agency, Service Blood Programs and Combatant Commands – we operate under common goals, metrics, procedures, and work together to shape the future.
The ASBP is one of four organizations tasked with providing a safe blood supply to the nation. Our program also works closely with our civilian counterparts in times of need to maximize the availability of this national treasure.
To find out more about the ASBP or schedule an appointment to donate, please visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with ASBP staff members or get the latest news, follow us @militaryblood on Facebook and Twitter, and @usmilitaryblood on Instagram.