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Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Megan Gomes, left, from Red Bluff, Calif., draws blood from Fire Controlman 2nd Class Kathryn Snyder, from Medford, Ore., during a blood drive aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response force for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cosmo Walrath/Released)
Bonhomme Richard Sailors Donate Blood, Support Fellow Military Members

WHITE BEACH, Okinawa (NNS) -- Sailors, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), donated blood in support of military forces on special missions and exercises in the region, Sept. 20.

Hosted in the ship's medical bay, representatives of the U.S. Pacific Command Armed Services Blood Bank Center (PACOM ASBBC) collected blood that will be transported to the Philippines for upcoming joint exercises as part of a contingency plan, as well as support local hospitals' blood banks.

"The blood donated will serve two purposes: it is going to the Marines that may need it during the exercises and to the Philippine hospitals," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Evan Fitch, from Vancouver, Wash., blood drive coordinator aboard Bonhomme Richard. "We have been trying to set up the blood drive with ASBBC Okinawa for a while now, and I am glad that this port visit we are able to provide full support to them."

According to Fitch, donated blood is utilized in many ways, ranging from fresh, ready to use blood, red blood cells preservation for up to 10 years, or utilizing plasma and cryoprecipitate for burn victims. For the current purposes of the blood drive, medical staff plan to use the donations as fresh blood, covering the span of the exercises and providing humanitarian assistance if needed.

As fresh blood is often in shortage due to the limited time it can be preserved, collecting donations is that much more important for maintaining a supply for emergencies or a crisis.

"Every unit collected today will be good for 48 days. Just one unit of blood has a potential to save three lives," said Fitch. "What is great about donating blood through ASBBC is that it is used directly by the military. There is no need to make purchases such as from the Red Cross. That is why it is important for us [service members] to donate, so that the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines can use our blood - our donation is your donation."

While PACOM ASBBC accepts all blood types, members with O-positive and O-negative are almost always in demand as they are designated as universal donors.

"This is something that I try to do as often as possible, especially with the type of blood drives that support armed forces primarily," said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Brianna Date, from Tucson, Ariz., an O-positive blood donor. "To be able to give directly to another service member is something that I always like to support."

The medical ward aboard Bonhomme Richard received donors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in order to support the Sailors willing to provide donations, as well as to meet the collection goal set for the drive. Army and Air Force medical personnel were also on hand to provide their services.

"This drive is different from many others as it is done on the ship vice a hospital, which is unusual to us," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Lee Fields III, medical laboratory technician at Armed Serviced Blood Donor Center. "It is interesting to see the inner-workings - how our medical counterparts work on the ship."

Fields stressed the importance of supporting blood drives set up by the ASBBC, especially in locations outside of the continental United States, such as Japan and the Pacific.

"Being the only blood supplier in the area, it is important to have all of the support of the armed services," said Fields. "This blood goes to our brothers and sisters in uniform; it can save your spouses, your dependants or your battle buddy who is right next to you in a foxhole."

Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the BHR ESG, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy.

For more news from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd6/.

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