CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - U.S. Pacific Command’s Armed Services Blood Bank Center, located on Camp Lester, will hold weekly blood drives throughout Okinawa in preparation for Exercise Cobra Gold 2014.
The Armed Services Blood Program’s mission is to support blood operational readiness, promote, maintain and restore the health of those they support, and be the leader in superior blood health service support for the Asia-Pacific region.
“The main reason we’re here in the (area of operation) is to support eight medical facilities, and all the training missions of all services,” said Douglas R. Kennedy, the blood donor recruiter at the center. “All of the blood we collect supports service members, family members, retirees, Department of Defense employees and contractors.”
USPACOM requires ASBP blood to be staged at forward medical facilities to ensure the safety of U.S. forces participating in regional exercises, according to Kennedy. The center is informed of the required amount of blood in advance, so it can be ready when the event commences.
If there is not an adequate quantity of blood donations, the center will reach out to U.S. centers for shipment, and may have to purchase the remainder to fulfill the requirement, according to Kennedy.
“A reason you should want to donate is because we support the best people – we support the armed services,” said Kennedy. “The key word that we need to get to our family members is we also need them to donate because when the active-duty members deploy our donor pool goes down.”
The donating process takes about 45 minutes and is not very painful, according to Cpl. Jeremy T. Marsh, a regular donor and a network defense administrator with G-6, communications, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
“Every time I see a blood drive, I want to donate because it’s personal for me,” said Marsh. “My dad was in an accident and needed a lot of blood. He got 10 extra days (of life) because of it.”
People donate for many different reasons, according to Kennedy. Reasons for donating include a desire to help others, the fact that a donor may never know when they could be on the receiving end, or a sense of duty and responsibility knowing that blood donations have directly affected their lives.
“Donating is important,” said Kennedy. “I know that because I received four units of blood last September. I know the importance of the donation and the miracle behind it.”
It is not only important to consider donating whole blood, but platelets as well, according to Kennedy. It takes about six whole blood donations to equal one platelet transfusion. The three main components of blood are red blood cells, platelets and plasma. RBCs last up to 42 days and are crucial for victims with major blood loss. Plasma, often frozen, is typically used to help tissue damage and burn victims.
“Platelets are only good for five days, and you can donate every 15 days and up to 24 times a year,” said Kennedy.
“Another reason to support is because you never know when you’re going to need it,” Kennedy continued, “I asked a lance corporal once ‘why do you donate?’ He said, ‘because it’s the right thing to do.’”