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‘An amazing job you have done’

The Civil Air Patrol has risen to the top 1 percent of American Red Cross blood donation partners, the organization announced March 26. Photo courtesy of the Civil Air Patrol.

Day 365 of CAP’s COVID-19 response was typical, with volunteers or seven different CAP wings flying missions on that day, from Arizona (supporting vaccine distribution and collecting blood donations) to New Hampshire (supporting vaccine distribution sites with personal protective equipment supply). It was in some respects just another day, adding to a tally built with a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessnas operated by 54,000 volunteers across the country.

As of March 24, CAP missions had delivered 2,803 units of blood to the American Red Cross, responding to an urgent call and surpassing the 2,500-unit goal of Operation Pulse Lift. The wings also flew plenty of food, with 8.2 million meals and 1.1 million pounds of food delivered; 2.6 million masks, 177,407 test kits, 116,792 test samples, and 7,493 vials of vaccine also passed through CAP hands.

In a year that saw supply chains critically stressed, the auxiliary force that trains in normal times for search and rescue turned its resources into a logistics powerhouse serving far-flung communities.

“What an amazing job you have done over the course of this year,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s commander and CEO, in a message to the organization.

Logistics support is only one of the missions that the U.S. Air Force auxiliary undertook at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, though millions of meals and thousands of vaccine doses have passed through the hands of these volunteers. Photo courtesy of the Civil Air Patrol.The coronavirus itself was a significant challenge, forcing the organization to limit meetings and, in many places, hunker down with the rest of the population following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forty of CAP’s 52 wings are now in the second phase of a three-phase remobilization plan, allowing on-site unit meetings of up to 50 members, and several are being evaluated for readiness to move to the next phase, allowing overnight activities such as encampments, the organization reported. Prospects for continued progress are considered good, provided the pace of vaccinations is maintained, and COVID-19 safeguards continue to be practiced in communities.

“Civil Air Patrol remains committed to safeguarding the health of all our members and employees while maintaining mission readiness,” said Brig. Gen. Ed Phelka, the CAP vice commander and leader of a team of subject matter experts who review remobilization plans proposed by wing commanders.

Meanwhile, the work continues to stretch beyond packing big boxes into relatively small airplanes. Missions underway on March 24 included data entry on behalf of state emergency managers in Maine and Maryland; supporting vaccine distribution in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington; and the Arizona Wing’s collection of 35 units of blood while assisting a vaccine distribution center there.

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