Hurlburt Field Airmen help fight cancer

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Hurlburt Field Airmen came together March 28 to help fight cancer by kicking-off a week-long bone marrow drive.

The base-wide drive, initiated by the 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron Tactical Communications Flight, helps support their colleague, Senior Master Sgt. Andy Turnbull, Tactical Communications Flight superintendent, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia July 19, 2010.

"I saw him a couple of times during his chemotherapy. Even though he was sick he was smiling, he was positive," said Senior Airman Eguzki Fernandez, a 1st SOCS tactical missions planner. "When you have that spirit, it inspires you to find a solution. If this program is going to help, I think everybody should volunteer."

The bone marrow drive program, officially called the C. W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Recruitment and Research Program, began in 1991 to implement and administer the Department of Defense-wide effort to recruit DOD personnel and their dependents to become marrow donors.

"It is a chance to help not only our own but others just by being registered and creating a database that can potentially, and very positively, affect the lives of some of our friends, neighbors and fellow Americans," said Col. Michael Plehn, 1st Special Operations Wing commander.

Participants fill out and sign a DOD Form 276, consenting to be listed on the DOD and National Marrow Donor Program registry. They are then required to provide tissue samples by swabbing their mouths four times in four different locations.

According to the C. W. Bill Young DODMDRRP website, medical teams throughout the U.S. and the world will be able to match patients with potential donors using the individuals registered in the NMDP computer database.

Military members who are matched to a patient must have their commander's consent before they will be allowed to donate. Once matched with a patient there is a 1-in-10 probability of being selected to donate marrow.

"There are many people out there that are looking for a match from a donor; without having a large registry there is a high potential of them not finding a match," said Chief Master Sgt. Dexter Mitchell, 1st Special Operations Wing command chief. "The more people we can get into the registry, the higher the potential is that there is going to be a match for someone out there that is really in need of a donor."

For more information on donating bone marrow, call 1-800-MARROW-3.