When you think about the armed services, the men and women who protect our country likely come to mind. But did you know that they have their own blood program?
The Armed Services Blood Program(ASBP) was founded in 1952, and since then has collected nearly 5 million units of blood to date. It is the only blood center dedicated to providing blood exclusively to the men and women of our military.
Before the ASBP was founded, the military relied on blood donations given by members of the armed services. When they weren’t able to collect enough blood, the military had to purchase blood from other blood centers, which had their own blood shortages to worry about. In 1944, we began airlifting supplies to the front lines, and blood was one of the most sought after items to be brought in, with more than 825,000 units collected for the duration of the war.
When the Korean War kicked off in 1950, the plans for what would become the ASBP were in their infancy. Blood was being collected from civilians and shipped to the front lines where it was needed. The need for O- blood types was enormous, since anyone can receive O- blood safely. Even though their blood type was printed on a soldier’s dog tag, there was an 8% chance that it was incorrect, making the risk of transfusion reaction a very real problem. By using O- blood, doctors were able to do transfusions much faster since they didn’t have to wait for cross-matching results to come back.
The Korean War was also the first time plastic bags were used for storing blood – glass bottles had always been used. This change reduced the risk of septic and embolic complications, not to mention that more blood made it safely to the front lines because there were no bottles to break! Out of the 50,000 transfusions given in 1952, only four had any major complications.
The Armed Services Blood Program had been born.
Since then, the ASBP has been there to support our soldiers during both war and peace times. An amazing 1.8 million units of blood were collected for our soldiers during the Vietnam Conflict, and the ASBP sent more than 100,000 units during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
Today the ASBP has 22 blood donor centers, 81 transfusion centers and two whole blood processing laboratories ready to maintain a safe blood supply for the Army, Navy and Air Force anywhere in the world. Most often, they receive blood donations from soldiers on active duty, government employees, military retirees and civilians who have family members in the armed services.
But we can help too.
Regardless whether or not someone has family in the service, or if they themselves serve, anyone can donate blood to the ASBP. Head to the ASBP donor center nearest to you or check out one of their mobile drives in your area. I can’t think of a better way to say thank you to the men and women of our armed services than to give a little back.