APG community gives back to Soldiers by donating blood

By Rachel PonderDecember 19, 2023

Man donating blood
Tim Smuda, with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s Software Engineering Center, squeezes a stress ball to increase blood circulation during a blood drive hosted by the Armed Services Blood Program at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center Dec. 4, 2023.

(Photo Credit: Photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Members of the APG community gave the gift of a blood donation by participating in the 13th annual Army-Navy Blood Donor Challenge, hosted by the Armed Services Blood Program National Capital Region at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center Dec. 4, 2023.

The ASBP is the official blood program of the U.S. military. The program collects, tests, stores, transports, and distributes blood products to military locations worldwide.

Shawntel Trowell, a public affairs specialist and blood donor recruiter for the ASBP, said the blood drive resulted in 40 usable units of blood.

Trowell said spreading the word about the critical need for blood donations is essential. Especially during the holiday season and winter months, when donations are typically lower.

“Blood cannot be reproduced, and it has a 30-to-45-day shelf life,” Trowell explained. “During the holiday season, it’s hard because people are shopping, spending time with family, and traveling. So, giving blood is in the back of their minds.”

Trowell said donating blood through ASBP is a way to support Soldiers. According to the ASBP website, a blood donation, whether in the form of whole blood, platelets, or plasma, is considered a treatment, somewhat like medicine in the medical field.

"[A blood donation] helps the burn victim heal tissue, the cancer patient combat diseased cells, and the trauma victim stay alive," the ASBP website states.

Navy HM2 Erwis Marte, a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center laboratory technician, said APG has a dedicated donor base.

“Especially with all the conflict going on in the world now, we definitely want to make sure the DoD has enough products throughout the armed services in case any of these engagements do ramp up,” he added.

‘The gift of life’

Blood donor Kimber Todd, an Army veteran and a civilian with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, said she was a blood recipient several years ago after a traumatic accident. She calls a blood donation “the gift of life.”

“I always gave [blood],” she said. “But now I especially realize the importance of it. It really hit me that I could have died if I didn’t have that blood.”

Randy Kowalczyk, a contractor with the U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, said he gives blood whenever he is eligible. He donates to the ASBP because it is convenient, and he knows his donation will support the troops.

According to ASBP, donors must wait eight weeks or 52 days between donations. Marte said giving blood typically takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Appointments are suggested, but walk-ins are welcome.

“I think it is important to give, especially during these times,” Kowalczyk said. “The more the merrier, I know it will get used.”

Friendly rivalry

After giving blood, participants indicated whether they were rooting for Army or Navy in the lead up to the Army-Navy Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Dec. 9, 2023. To show appreciation to the donors, ASBP gave a commemorative Army-Navy Blood Drive shirt and snacks to those who participated.

“The Army had a three-year winning streak, but this year, Navy won by five votes, out of over 700 donors that presented to donate blood and vote for their team,” Trowell said.

For more information about ASBP and to make an appointment for an upcoming blood drive, visit https://health.mil/militaryblood. For more photos, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/usagapg/albums/72177720313379692.