NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- The Armed Services Blood Program hosted a blood drive at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Dec. 5-6.
The donated blood will arrive in combat zone theaters by Friday to support deployed troops.
Capt. John O'Neill, commanding officer, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, was the first uniformed donor of the drive and said it was the first time he has ever donated blood to the ASBP and.
"The blood donated today makes a great, immediate impact for our forces overseas," O'Neill said. "I encourage everyone who can to donate to this positive, longstanding program."
This is the first time ASBP has held a blood drive in Kings Bay, said Erin Hawkins, an ASBP blood donor recruiter from Fort Gordon, Ga.
"December is typically the toughest month to get blood donations," Hawkins said. "With people preparing for the holidays, travelling around the country in addition to deployments and regular operations, it tends to slip people's minds. But the need never slips."
The process to get blood from the donor to the desert is very efficient and maintains an extremely fast tempo.
"From the time the blood leaves the donor's arm to the time its being stored in theater takes 72 hours," Hawkins said.
The donors are interviewed on their medical history, given a quick but thorough check-up to ensure the member is healthy to donate before all of the paperwork is reviewed by the company's staff sergeant to issue a blood bag.
"Our process attempts to eliminate error as much as possible," said SSgt. Eric Longacre, Bravo Company Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Ga. "This makes it as safe as possible for the donor and the potential serviceman or woman who may need it."
At that point the donor will have their blood drawn and given time to recover with high-sugar treats like juice and cookies, one of the few times a doctor will order a patient to consume more sugar.
Once it's bagged, the blood is mixed with an anticoagulant to ensure the blood doesn't clot in transport or storage. The tube is then segmented for testing and packed away for transport, all usually within an hour.
The blood is then tested and screened at the Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey before being flown into theater for those in need or stored on U.S. Navy ships.
"It's really a tri-service effort to take care of our Soldiers down range," said Hawkins.
"There are other people out there who need [my blood] more than me," Lt. Eric Goying, USS Georgia (SSGN 729) (Gold), one of the earliest donors to arrive to the drive.
For Erica Gilliand of Lewiston, Idaho, the blood drive had a different meaning.
"It's our anniversary today," Gilliand said about her and her husband, U.S. Coast Guard Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Jon Gilliand of Maritime Force Protection Unit Kings Bay. The couple began to celebrate their fifth anniversary with their donation.
"We decided not to give each other gifts for our anniversary because it's so close to Christmas," Erica Gilliand said. "So we're offering a gift to those who are serving overseas."
"I want to help out my fellow Marines over there [in combat]," said Cleveland native Pfc. John Schon of Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Kings Bay. "I joined the Corps to go to over there, but the Marines need me here instead. This is the best way for me to help them right now."