By Norman Shifflett | Garrison Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Even during the ongoing pandemic, the Fort Carson community recognized the need for blood and came out to donate.
“I think this is one of the most important times to be giving blood,” said Stacy Newvine, a Fort Carson Family member. “Giving blood is a way for me to give back to the military community that has served me and my Family.”
Fort Carson and the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, hosted a blood drive Sept. 22-24, 2020.
The ASBP is a nationwide program comprised of donor centers from the Army, Air Force and Navy. The program’s priority is to provide blood to service members who are wounded in overseas operations, which is why the ASBP staff travels to various installations collecting blood donations.
However, this year’s blood drive was different from past years, due to COVID-19. Individuals who tested positive for the virus were asked to make a different donation.
“So now we are collecting the convalescent plasma to be able to give to people in military hospitals and other Department of Defense facilities,” said Deylon Douglas, recruiter, Fort Bliss Blood Donor Center. “Anyone who is struggling to recover from the virus, we are going to give them a transfusion of the convalescent plasma to help boost the antibodies in their system to speed up their own recovery.”
Eighty units of convalescent plasma were collected over three days from individuals who had previously recovered from COVID-19.
Spc. Nicholas Buzzell, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was one of many to donate plasma. He remembered his experience contracting the coronavirus.
“Going through it myself was not fun at all — being that sick,” said Buzzell. “I would do anything to help prevent people from passing away from the virus.”
The addition of collecting convalescent plasma does not mean the military needs less blood, and while there has been a decline in donations, the necessity has always been there, said Lt. Col. Jennifer Marin, director of blood donor operations at Robertson blood donor center at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Leonard Wood blood donor center at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. There is currently a shortage of blood within the military community, she added. So, to encourage people to donate blood, ASBP offered a $25 gift card to those who were eligible to donate.
“That was a step to try to increase the collections to meet the demand that is still out here,” Marin said. “The demand for blood never went away but collections did go down.”
Each year the units on Fort Carson make a competition out of donating, in order to increase donations. Units were motivated by the Battle of the Battalions competition. The unit with the most donations won a plaque to be displayed in the unit’s headquarters. This year the 759th Military Police Battalion won the competition.
The blood drive collected 521 units of whole blood.
Blood drives are still being conducted, even during COVID, because the need for blood doesn’t go away, said Marin.
Visit https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Combat-Support/Armed-Services-Blood-Program for more information and to find a blood donation center.