Blood drive benefits Armed Forces Blood Program

  • Published
  • By Merrie Schilter-Lowe
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – If one person donates blood, they can save the lives of up to eight people.  If one person donates to the Armed Services Blood Program, they can save the lives of up to eight ill or injured service members in combat areas. 

The ASBP is hosting a blood drive at Travis Air Force Base April 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the fitness center.  The ASBP is the official blood program for the U.S. military.

Travis typically hosts 10 blood drives a year in cooperation with the Blood Centers of the Pacific – a non-profit community-based organization – and the blood is used in the local community, said Maj. Stephen Vela, 60th Medical Group installation blood donation program officer. 

“What makes this blood drive different is that 100% of the blood will be used for the armed forces, so it is hugely important that we get as many donors as possible,” he said.

Unfortunately, less than 5% of eligible blood donors actually donate, so blood drives rely mostly on the same people each time, said Victor Shermer, Armed Services Blood Bank Center for the Pacific Northwest donor recruiter. 

“If we can collect more than 100 units at Travis, we will consider it a successful drive,” he said.

Blood and blood products have an expiration date, which means supplies must be continually replenished.

“Trauma patients require the most blood, but there are some surgeries where a large amount of blood loss could occur,” said Vela. “We have man-made fluids like saline and lactated ringers that add volume, but they don’t carry oxygen to the body. That’s why it’s critical to have blood.”

Blood is classified by group (A, B, AB or O) and by type, which is either positive or negative.

Only 7 percent of the U.S. population have blood type O negative; however, O negative is considered universal and can be used in emergency situations until a patient’s exact blood type is determined.  People with O negative blood, however, can only receive red blood cells from someone in the same group and type.  But O negative plasma can be given to anyone in any blood group or type.   

People with blood type AB negative represent 1 percent of the population and those with AB positive represent 3%. Because AB negative is so rare, the red blood cells of people in this group, as well as group type O, can only be transfused to people with blood types AB positive or negative, B negative and O negative.

Blood type B negative is the second rarest type among the U.S. population, representing 2 percent.  People in this group can only receive red blood cells from others with B negative and O negative blood.

Since 34% of the population are O positive and 38% are A positive, this is the most requested blood in the nation.  However, anyone with base access can donate during the blood drive, said Vela.

Potential donors should eat and be well hydrated before their arrival.  They also need to have felt well for at least three days before donating blood and bring photo identification.  Donors also need a list of all foreign travel since 1980 and a list of medications and immunizations during the previous eight weeks. 

The Department of Defense has been collecting blood since 1957.  The ASBP holds monthly blood drives, but only at federal agencies, military installations and universities with a Reserve Officer Training Cadet detachment, said Shermer. 

ASBP has 22 blood centers in the United States and two overseas – one at Landsthul, Germany, and one at Okinawa, Japan.  ASBP works closely with civilian agencies and local hospitals during national emergencies and crisis situations as well as humanitarian missions.  However, civilian organizations cannot donate blood to the ASBP. 

This will be the first time the ASBP has visited Travis since 2014 and all the blood collected will be used downrange. 

“We meet those requirements first,” said Shermer.  “The rest of the blood will go to military and (Veteran’s Administration) medical centers and hospitals in need where it can be used for active duty members, retirees, veterans and family members.  We say, ‘We draw from our own to save our own.’”