FORT SILL, Okla.-- When Sgt. Gregory Kucz was a student at Jacobs High School one of his classmates was diagnosed with leukemia. The Algonquin, Ill.-based high school held a blood drive for the stricken student, and Kucz donated for the first time. He continued to donate blood through his senior year.

After enlisting in the Army, Kucz took a hiatus from giving blood because a deployment disqualified him from donating for one year.

Kucz, 22, was one of the Soldiers who donated whole blood Aug. 3 at B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery's blood drive in Building 2750 Miner Road.

"It's a good thing to do. People always need blood," said Kucz, an Advanced Individual Training student in the Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning Operator course here.

It was the first unit blood drive for B/2-6th ADA, and was hosted by its family readiness group and run by the Oklahoma Blood Institute, said Capt. Kurt Hildebrandt, B Battery commander.

Hildebrandt said with a pool of more than 200 AIT students, cadre and contractors; and with the Musculo Skeletal Action Team, there was a potential for a lot of donations. Many of the AIT students are here four to six months, and so could donate more than once during their time here.

Donating blood teaches many of the young trainee Soldiers about the Army Values including selfless service and duty, Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt said he plans to make blood drives a regular occurence and possibly expanding it to a battalionwide event.

Unit-sponsored blood drives with OBI are common at Fort Sill, said Derrick Williams, Texas/Oklahoma Blood Institute mobile blood supervisor. OBI comes out about once a month for a unit-sponsored blood drive, and it is also here every weekend collecting from basic combat training Soldiers.

"Fort Sill blood drives are one of our most successful drives, and the community relies heavily on the fort," Williams said.

The OBI staff was expecting to draw 70 units of blood at the battery. One unit is equal to one pint of blood.

At the battery, 12 phlebotomists performed the screening process and drew blood.
The confidential screening included questions about medical history, sexual behavior and travel, as well as a check of blood pressure, body temperature and the potential donor's blood-iron level.

The screening disqualifies about 15 to 20 percent of donors, Williams said.

One of the disqualification factors that affects many service members is an assignment in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, because of Mad Cow Disease, he said. Other disqualification factors include a deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq deployment within the past 12 months, and various recently received vaccinations.

Once blood is taken from a donor, it is typed and screened for contaminants and diseases. The process takes between 24 and 48 hours, Williams said.

Ten percent of the donations from the blood drive go overseas to service members in theater with the remainder distributed to local medical centers, Williams said.

Despite his disdain for needles, Pfc. Mitchell Straughn, 19, donates blood regularly. He said he deals with the needle by not looking when it is inserted into his vein.

"I just want to give to people and Soldiers who need blood," said Straughn, an AIT student in the Air Defense Battle Managment System Operator course.

Only about 5 percent of the eligible population donates blood. Williams encouraged everyone who has not donated to try it.

"It takes about 30 to 45 minutes and you can help save three lives," he said.

Units and organizations interested in coordinating a blood drive can call OBI's Mary Spannagel at 580-512-3221. For more information, visit