The U.S. military has a critical need for Type O blood donors to help save the lives of battlefield injury victims.

“Type O donors are the first line of defense for trauma victims,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Ruth Sylvester, director of the Armed Services Blood Program, according to a news release from the Army Surgeon General’s office.

Sylvester explained that until a blood type can be verified, Type O blood is used to keep trauma victims alive. In an emergency, a battlefield injury victim can require more than 40 units of blood.

“Once their blood type is determined, type-specific blood is transfused,” he said. “But without Type O blood available, many patients would never make it until the test results came back.”

The Armed Services Blood Program said it also needs Type O blood to maintain its frozen blood reserve.

The military keeps a supply of frozen red blood cells to use when fresh blood is not immediately available. Frozen blood can be safely stored for up to 10 years.

The current need is acute, Sylvester said, because military blood donor centers can only collect blood from active duty service members, government employees, retirees and military family members.

Many veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom cannot donate blood for a year because they served in areas where malaria is endemic.

“We’re always thankful to our donors,” Sylvester said. “We know that blood donations save lives every day. Repeat donors and those who ask that we call them when their blood type is needed help ensure we have a consistent supply of all blood types. They’re literally lifesavers when an urgent need arises.”

Blood program officials encourage potential donors or those who could sponsor a group blood drive to contact their local military blood collection facility.

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