Former Essendon resident and Army officer Captain Hugh Johnston has had an excellent role model when it comes to donating blood. 

“My father has donated blood and plasma 270 times,” Captain Johnston said. 

Captain Johnston’s father, Chris, still lives in Essendon and first started donating blood when his oldest son had to spend lengthy periods of time in hospital as a child.

“My older brother suffered from asthma and that motivated dad to start donating blood,” Captain Johnston said. 

“I guess I’m driven by a need to help, but dad has also let me know that I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to him when it comes to donations.”

An operations officer at Headquarters Forces Command in Sydney, Captain Johnston donated blood in this year’s Defence Blood Challenge for team Army.

And he’s not just motivated by a sense of competition with his father, he’s also driven by a healthy sense of inter-service rivalry.

“It’s a way to help the community and serve my country. Army is always recognising people’s participation in the blood drive,” he said.

“But we also look to do it as a bit of friendly competition with the Navy and Air Force. 

“It’s a good thing to be a part of.”

By rolling up his sleeves, Captain Johnston is trying to encourage other Army soldiers and officers to donate during the Defence Blood Challenge 2021, which is running until December 8.

The challenge is now its 13th year and Red Cross Lifeblood wants Defence members to know their contributions make a huge difference.

One whole blood donation can save up to three lives.

In last year’s challenge, Army made the highest number of donations at 3849.

Those donations in turn helped 11,500 people.

“For one thing, it’s an honour to be able to give blood,” Captain Johnston said.

“If you are healthy and fit enough, you should. It gives you a good feeling of helping people.”

This year, Army wants to win all categories of the Defence Blood Challenge. 

Last year, the biggest challenge came from the Navy.

“From my understanding, the Navy is the service to beat,” Captain Johnston said.

“But the Army has the numbers, and we really need to drive up our participation.”

Whole blood can be donated every 12 weeks and some donors might be able to give two donations during the challenge.

Defence is aiming to achieve a total of 10,500 donations this year.

Defence family members and civilian staff are also eligible to donate in the Defence Blood Challenge.

Those participating can either visit a Lifeblood Centre or find out when a blood service mobile donor van is visiting their area. 

All Lifeblood facilities adhere to strict COVID-19 safety guidelines and protocols.

To see if you are eligible to donate blood and save a life, visit