Thursday, January 02, 2014

Military Blood Program Director Urges Generosity

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2, 2014 – Air Force Col. Richard H. McBride wants all service members to be part of a new arms race.

McBride, the director of the Armed Services Blood Program, wants service members to roll up their sleeves and donate blood to help their fellow service members and their families.

Historically, blood levels shrink around the holidays, and since 1970 January has been declared National Blood Donor Month.

“January, just like the summer months, is a time when there is a decrease in the blood supply, primarily because people are preoccupied with the holidays,” McBride said during a recent interview. “This is a great time to encourage donors and keep them aware that we need donations 12 months a year, not just in the summer.”

The Armed Services Blood Program is dedicated to ensuring that service members who need blood, get it. And the medics involved with the program have been getting a workout.

The fighting overseas has consumed a lot of blood resources, McBride said. One injured service member may need 40 units of blood in order to get back home.

“It’s a sacred mission that we hold in our hearts,” the colonel said.

The program’s staff wants to ensure that every wounded warrior that can make it home does come home.

“We never want to hear that they didn’t come home because they didn’t have enough blood,” McBride said.

The program also provides blood products for stateside service members and family members.

“Right now we collect about 10,000 units per month -- about 120,000 a year,” said McBride, who hails from New York City’s borough of Queens. “In peacetime, it can go as low as 90,000 [units] per year, but at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom we were collecting about 150,000 to 160,000 a year.”

One blood donation can result in four products. Red blood cells are what give blood its color and what a person needs if he or she is in danger of bleeding to death. Blood plasma is the straw-colored liquid that has clotting factors in it. Doctors use plasma to prevent bleeding.

Platelets are blood cell fragments and also help accelerate clotting. A final blood product is cryoprecipitate, which is also used to accelerate clotting.

Doctors also use whole blood and there have been times during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where doctors had to transfuse whole blood to wounded warriors.

In times of crises, doctors sometimes must turn to “the walking blood bank.” This is an emergency whole blood collection from service members.

“It’s definitely not planned, but we train for it,” McBride said. “In those cases, we ask everyone to roll up their sleeves and donate at a moment’s notice.”

He continued, “We’ve never had a problem with people donating” blood throughout all the military operations.

“Our troops donate, and those deployed have no problem rolling up their sleeves if they are available to save another warrior’s life,” he said.

The blood program follows all Food and Drug Administration rules, even in a war zone, McBride said.

The Armed Services Blood Program has 21 blood centers in the United States and overseas. Blood donors must be 18 or older, in good health and free of any blood-borne infectious diseases. The armed services program accepts donations from service members, family members, DOD civilians, contractors and veterans, the colonel said.

The typical donation takes about 45 minutes, he said, and it could save the lives of several military brothers or sisters thousands of miles away.

“You can help bring them back to their families,” McBride said.

Incirlik Airmen bring cheer to hearing-impaired Turkish children

by 1st Lt. David Liapis
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

12/27/2013 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey  -- Members of Team Incirlik threw a holiday party for 20 hearing-impaired Turkish children at Seyhan Isitme elementary school Dec. 26, in Adana, Turkey.

The event was the third of its kind at the school in as many years. It was organized by the Incirlik Protestant Men of Chapel group, and was attended by seven volunteers from the base.

Ayse Unal, an assistant at a variety of Adana's special needs schools, said she has worked with volunteers from Incirlik Air Base for the past 20 years at Adana's schools for the hearing impaired and blind.

"Last year it was the TDY unit [90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron]. Before that, the chapel would come," said Unal, "Every year we celebrate with the Americans. The children love them and look forward to them coming."

Members of the Incirlik AB chapel community donated gifts, decorations and food for the party. The toy drive, headed up by the Incirlik Protestant Women of the Chapel group, netted 78 gifts for the children.

"I wish more people could have been here to see the outcome," said Robyn Mihalyi, PWOC vice president of programs. "I think it's a good outreach for PWOC and PMOC to work together."

The youth played games, danced and ate with the volunteers for nearly three hours. The evening culminated with eating cake and opening presents.

"The children are so happy and look forward to this event," said Yunus Cinkir, Seyhan Isitme elementary school principal. "When the children are happy, we are happy."

One student, Murat Enni, 16, communicated his feelings about the event with the help of one of the teachers. He signed, "Very good! I'm happy with everything."

Because Seyhan Isitme is one of only eight schools in Turkey for the hearing impaired, some of the students who live in cities such as Ceyhan and Osmaniye are boarded at the school throughout the week, said Bisar Korkmazer, a teacher who has worked at the school for three years .

Ceyhan and Osmaniye are approximately 50 and 100 kilometers away from the school, respectively and with some of the children away from family, events like this mean even more. Members of Team Incirlik who participated know how much this means to all the children involved and are dedicated to keeping this tradition going. 

"I think it's very likely we'll do this again," said Lenore Castillo, wife of Chaplain (Maj.) Paul Castillo, 39th Air Base Wing, "It was such a good, positive event that brought such joy to the children. It was a blessing to us to be able to bless them."

Medal of Honor recipient visits Aviano

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/30/2013 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, spoke to Aviano members on the last leg on his tour of overseas and deployed bases, Dec. 30, here.

Meyer received the military's highest honor, Sept. 15, 2011, for personally evacuating 12 friendly wounded and providing cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe.

With Meyer's reflection upon his multiple deployments, he brought a message of inspiration and encouragement to Aviano Airmen.

"I'm a ground guy and I want to thank each and every one of you in attendance, on behalf of all of us ground guys, for your support," said Meyer, who was a scout sniper. "Airpower is the reason I'm standing here today. I can recall several situations in combat where I would have died without you guys."

During a question and answer portion of his visit, the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient spoke on his disregard of an order, which ultimately led to his fearless actions that day. Rather than staying at a relatively safe distance from an intense fire-fight, in which U.S. Army soldiers, and Afghan soldiers had been caught in an ambush -- which he had been ordered to do -- Meyer repeatedly went in and out of the killing zone to save his comrades.

Due to the events that took place that fateful day, Meyer stressed the importance of a healthy professional relationship between junior and senior service members.

"If you're a leader, never stop listening to the lower ranks," said Meyer. "The day that you decide your young troops don't have a voice is the day you need to hang up your uniform. If you're a young service member, don't be afraid to voice your opinion. With that being said, never bring up a problem if you can't think of a solution."

In addition to his views of leadership, Meyer spoke on the camaraderie between service members and lauded those in attendance on their continuous volunteerism.

"I was willing to die for the idea of 'Never leave a man behind,'" said Meyer. "We have brotherhood etched deep down in our hearts that we can't turn off. This is the first time a 13-year war has been fought with a purely volunteer force. All of you are to thank for that."