Story and photo by Carl Norman
Armed Services Blood Program
Fort Leonard Wood volunteers helped save more than 11,000 lives so far this year, and they did so while relaxing in a chair watching movies.
The 5,535 people who donated blood at the Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center made blood products available to 11,070 injured or ill people and saved the Defense Department nearly $1.6 million by not having to purchase blood from civilian agencies.
The center averaged 25 units collected at 216 drives, and the blood went to the Armed Services Blood Program, the official military blood collection and transfusion agency for the Department of Defense.
“We’re thankful for everyone who chose to donate … despite the anxiety the pandemic caused,” said Maj. John Spring, officer in charge of the Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center. “Even though the coronavirus is attacking hard, people suffering from illness and injuries other than COVID-19 still need blood to recover, and we need volunteer donors to give it. We simply cannot help medical providers save lives without people volunteering to donate blood.”
Marty Ricker, Armed Services Blood Program recruiter supervisor, said Fort Leonard Wood’s donors have played an even more vital role due to the pandemic.
“Virtually everyone else was operating at reduced capacity,” Ricker said. “The Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center was one of the better ones.”
Since Fort Leonard Wood is primarily a training installation, the lion’s share of donations come from trainees, along with 125 walk-in donors so far in 2020.
All blood donors are true heroes, Spring said.
“We don’t have a formal competition to see who donates the most,” he added. “We just like to have a friendly rivalry between units on post. There’s no prize for those who donate the most; they do it because they want to help others. The real winners are the service members and their families who fall victim to injury or illness and need blood.”
2020’s Top 10 donor units through October are:
1. The Marine Corps Detachment Leadership and Professional Development section with 524 units donated in 22 drives.
2. General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital with 202 units donated in four drives.
3. Company B, 554th Engineer Battalion with 194 units donated in five drives.
4. Company A, 35th Engineer Battalion with 188 units donated in five drives.
5. A tie between Company C, 35th Engineer Battalion and Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion with 181 units donated in four and nine drives, respectively.
6. Company B, 58th Transportation Battalion with 162 units donated in nine drives.
7. Company C, 58th Transportation Battalion with 155 units donated in 10 drives.
8. The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence headquarters complex with 154 units donated in five drives.
9. Company B, 169th Engineer Battalion with 143 units donated in five drives.
10. Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion with 131 units donated in eight drives.
“No one ever expects to need blood, but they want it to be there if they ever do,” Spring said. “The consequences can be fatal if it’s not. There’s no substitute for human blood, so we really need as many people as possible to donate.”
The Armed Services Blood Program is a tri-service program with more than 20 blood donor centers worldwide supplying blood and blood products to more than 1.3 million service members, retirees and their families.
All total, military treatment facilities across the Defense Department use about 400 units of red blood cells every day or 12,000 per month. Blood has a limited shelf life of 42 days, so it must be collected regularly to be available for everything from routine military medical treatment facility operations to contingency situations.
Anyone wanting to donate blood or schedule a blood drive can call 573.596.5385 for more information.