By USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Public Affairs Office

Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) joined forces with the non-profit organization OneBlood to conduct a blood drive in the ship's medical ward Aug. 14-15.

The campaign's purpose was two-fold, as it helped support the local community but also allowed the ship to create a walking blood bank.

"The blood drive helps us prepare for deployment," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Erick D. Villatoro.  "It's Sailors that are on the ship that we can collect blood from in case of an emergency. If the ship has a major casualty, we need to have the walking blood bank available."

"This blood drive not only identified Sailors onboard that may be a match to a needing recipient, but who would be willing to provided units of blood when called upon," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Jami Skornia.  "A single donor can only provide a maximum of two units at a time, while the typical car accident victim needs around 50 units.  This is why support for the walking blood bank is so vital to the ship's mission." 

More than 150 Sailors onboard participated in the blood drive, with many believing it was something they needed to do.

 "It really meant a lot for me to donate," said Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Leitner.  "This was the first time I've ever donated blood and after doing it, I just felt better about myself, like I made a difference in someone's life."

According to OneBlood's representatives, being invited onboard Iwo Jima to conduct the blood drive was a valuable opportunity.

"This was the first time we've ever done this on a ship," said Maria Moscoso, a phlebotomist and mobile unit supervisor.  "Normally when we do a drive in town, we only collect about 30 units.  On the first day here, we collected 72.  The Sailors were amazing and we are so grateful they came out in such massive numbers."

Iwo Jima is currently at her homeport of Naval Station Mayport conducting a scheduled continuous maintenance availability.