Columbus Air Force Base Rolls Up Its Sleeves

  • Published
  • By SrA Jessica Blocher
  • 14 FTW PA

Heavy rain usually keeps student pilots on the ground and personnel inside their work centers, but today the halls of the Base Chapel were filled with people ready to brave the weather to save lives. Keesler Armed Services Blood Program partnered with the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus Air Force Base CAFB to host a blood drive at the Base Chapel on March 8, 2024.  

The blood drive was organized by Austin Keenlance, 14th Student Squadron IT technician. “While I was in Connecticut, I had an opportunity to work with the American Red Cross under the Connecticut chapter leader at the time,” said Keenlance. “After co-hosting my first blood drive, I was able to see first-hand the big impact of donating.” 

During ASBP’s time at CAFB, they collected 44 successful units of blood to run for testing and to locally disseminate the needed units to joint coalition Armed Forces, which saved 132 lives. 

CAFB, with Keesler ASBP and the many volunteers and employees that made this event happen, ultimately assisted in covering a two-week quota, which supported four COCOMs and saved the DoD $15.4k in only four hours. 

“I’m giving blood today because our family has experienced personally the need for blood donors, and I hope people continue to give,” said Roberta Weeks, 49th unit program coordinator. “Donating blood reaches more people than you know, maybe even the people around you will need these donations eventually.” 

With an attendance surpassing 51 donors, the show of support exceeded the capacity of the blood drive quota. 

“Each week we’re given a new quota which tells us the need for supply in specific blood types, and we have a quota because the product is able to expire,” said Wendy Ortega, Keesler ASBP medical lab technician. “If someone has never been in the situation where they need blood, it can be difficult to understand how much product it takes to save a life; so I just want to encourage anyone who may be hesitating to donate because of a fear of needles, we’re going to take care of you and just think of the people you are going to be able to save because of your blood.” 

After Keenlance’s experience during his time in the Navy, he felt compelled to continue hosting blood drives and to encourage those around him with the importance and impact of donating. 

“The big impact of these blood drives, that I hope people will understand, is that each unit of blood that every person donates can save up to three lives,” said Keenlance. “This is a small thing that makes a big deal of difference for Armed Forces stateside and overseas, it truly makes the differences for families, and I hope that inspires donors to keep giving.” 

To learn more about Keesler ASBP, visit the official website,