FORT HOOD, Texas, July 12, 2010 - Army Capt. Erin Thomas understands the value of blood donation and the Armed Services Blood Program first hand. As a medical leader deployed to Iraq, she has experienced both sides of the military medical and evacuation systems.

A Houston, Texas native, Thomas deployed to Iraq with the 404th Aviation Support Battalion, caring for the 4th Infantry Division's Aviation Brigade in June of 2008. Medical supply was among her many duties, which included designing a system for tracking casualties and other troops evacuated from the battlefield. When Thomas was suddenly overtaken by a medical condition during her deployment, she was quickly evacuated and tracked by the very same system she designed.

"I told the commander that I was proofing the system and then followed my project all the way back to the states," Thomas joked.

Along the way, she tested another system too-the rapid delivery of military blood donations to the battlefield. "I received a unit of blood at the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad," recalls Thomas. That unit of blood came from the Armed Services Blood Program, which collects blood in support of military service members around the world. The blood collected is often available in theater in as little as five days to ensure that blood supplies are available in times of need.

After her recovery, Thomas began coordinating an Armed Services Blood Program blood drive with her battalion and new unit, the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Thomas spreads the word about the importance of blood donation to encourage others to donate. "I try to give my testimony to show that the blood donated really goes forward, really gets used, and really benefits those who need it."

Thomas was on hand as the commander of the battalion donated blood with his wife by his side who also lead the way for the two-day drive. Dropping off cookies and juice for the blood drive on a warm Texas morning, Thomas appeared healthy and happy. "I want this to be a successful blood drive and we will definitely organize more drives in the future."

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