Headquarters and Service Battalion, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, U.S. Marine Corps Forces command hosted an Armed Services Blood Program blood drive at the Hopkins Hall Gymnasium, at Camp Elmore, Norfolk, Virginia, May 28, 2020.
The blood drive provided an opportunity for service members, personnel, and their families to donate blood amid Coronavirus Disease 2019.
“The blood drive at Camp Elmore provided us with over 50 donors, which is incredible,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Alisa Agey, the division officer of the Blood Donor Center at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. “This enabled us to create well over 100 different blood products which will support the fleet, Soldiers and Sailors who are down range, and military treatment facilities to include Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.”
According to the ASBP, as a joint operation, they collect, process, store and distribute blood and blood products to service members and their family worldwide. The ASBP is one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply.
“Blood drives are needed for the collection of blood products to support service members down range and eligible beneficiaries receiving care at a military facility,” said Agey. “The products are used for patients of all ages for many reasons, from cancer patients to those with battlefield injuries. Military members and their families depend on blood donors every day.”
“This enabled us to create well over 100 different blood products which will support the fleet, Soldiers and Sailors who are down range, and military treatment facilities…” U.S. Navy Lt. Alisa Agey, Division Officer of the Blood Donor Center at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth
In comparison to civilian agencies, the ASBP has limited access to blood donors. By law, the ASBP is restricted to holding blood drives only on federal property whereas civilian agencies can collect blood products anywhere. The COVID pandemic has further limited their ability as most sites have limited staff on board due to teleworking. Other locations are restricting access to their site and staff, according to Agey.
“Our blood donor team facilitates the safe donation of blood because they are skilled in infection control practices and already have procedures in place to prevent the spread of infections,” said Agey. “We always take steps to prevent staff and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area.”
During COVID-19, the ASBP is taking additional social distancing precautions wherever possible. A few of the precautions taken in the Hopkins Hall Gymnasium included: increasing the amount of sanitizing products for donors and staff, sanitizing each station after use, social distancing in the waiting areas, a wellness check at the entrance, and wearing masks when the social distance of 6 feet was not possible.
Many hours go into ensuring the success of a blood drive, according to Agey.
“Making this happen during the COVID pandemic was something we set out to overcome,” said Sgt. Maj. Bradley S. Driver, the sergeant major of Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic. “A special thank you to all of those who helped make this happen is most necessary. Lt. Col. Terry Evans, the H&S Bn. executive officer, was invaluable to this process. He spent countless hours on the phone, and worked with numerous organizations to make this happen.”
The most important piece of a successful blood drive is support from the leadership at the sponsoring site, according to Agey.
“The coordination and support for this drive was done by Camp Elmore’s leadership, Hopkins Hall staff, Base engineers, Headquarters of Naval Support Activity, and their Public Affairs Office,” said Ralph Peters, a blood donor recruiter with ASBP, assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Portsmouth. “I am the interim between them and the Blood Drive Staff. The effort from all was outstanding, with a very involved commanding officer and executive officer. We need any sponsor’s leadership to be involved and supportive, and Camp Elmore’s leaders were deeply involved. We look forward to working again with them.”
According to Peters, this drive helped, because regardless of the impact of COVID-19 on work forces, the ASBP still needs organizations to sponsor when they can.
“I am O-negative and am the “universal donor” meaning mine can go to anyone,” said Driver. “I consider this an obligation to my community to help as many people as possible. To me, donating blood is giving someone the most precious gift you could give them life. Blood is life.”
To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To keep up with the latest news about the ASBP, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and @usmilitaryblood on Instagram.