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First Air Force’s Auxiliary supports FEMA for COVID-19 test transport

New Mexico Civil Air Patrol Maj. Gregory Griffith, left, and Flight Officer Casey Neal carry a package of COVID-19 test kits from the CAP aircraft to a vehicle for transport from Albuquerque International Airport to a laboratory for processing.

New Mexico Civil Air Patrol Maj. Gregory Griffith, left, and Flight Officer Casey Neal carry a package of COVID-19 test kits from the CAP aircraft to a vehicle for transport from Albuquerque International Airport to a laboratory for processing. Griffith is a member of Albuquerque Senior Squadron II, and Neal is a member of Eagle Cadet Squadron. (CAP Photo by: Capt. Bryan Neal).

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

The New Mexico Wing of Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, transported COVID-19 test kits from a meat packing plant in southern New Mexico to the Scientific Laboratory Division of the state Department of Health in Albuquerque for processing.

The New Mexico Wing, in support of U.S. Northern Command’s support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New Mexico National Guard, transported the collected tests from the plant site in Santa Teresa after each shift for delivery to the Department of Health office in Las Cruces to complete required documentation. After that, the tests are taken to Las Cruces International Airport, where a CAP aircrew will fly them to Albuquerque.

“One person on the plant's staff tested positive for COVID-19, and the Department of Health is testing the entire staff,” said Department of Health’s Dave Daniels. "We really appreciate the help from the Civil Air Patrol and how quickly you can get these samples to the laboratory.”

The rapid testing is being done to provide information needed to keep the plant operating safely for employees as well as the public.

“In challenging times like these, we’re proud to be able to help the people of New Mexico through our auxiliary Air Forces,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Simpler, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, 1st Air Force (AFNORTH).  “With the dedication and expertise of these volunteer citizen airmen, our response would not be as fast or effective.”

The flights, along with transportation by CAP ground crews, are part of an ongoing operation. The National Guard is supporting the state Department of Health, and CAP is assisting the National Guard. The CAP assistance is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

More than 40 CAP members from across the state have participated in planning, supporting and conducting the COVID-19 response efforts.

"Our members train hard to be ready to serve our fellow New Mexicans. We're gratified to see that training, and their efforts, pay off and make a contribution at a time of need," said Lt. Col. John Grassham, the New Mexico Wing's director of emergency services.

Acting as a Total Force partner and official civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, Civil Air Patrol is aligned with First Air Force to rapidly respond to non-military threats domestically when tasked in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.

About the Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of more than 80 lives annually. CAP’s more than 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to nearly 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com or www.CAP.news for more information.

The New Mexico Wing is one of 52 wings in CAP. Founded in 1941, the same year as CAP, the New Mexico Wing has been serving the nation and local communities through the CAP's missions of Emergency Services, Aerospace Education and Cadet Programs. Today, with more than 800 members and 12 aircraft, the wing is an active and valuable part of New Mexico's emergency-response infrastructure, working with state and local agencies to enhance public safety. Wing members devote large amounts of volunteer time to training and serving for emergency services; to advancing education about aviation, spaceand high-tech careers; and to teaching and mentoring our nation's leaders of tomorrow.

The wing has squadrons in Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Clovis, Edgewood, Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces, Los Alamos, Rio Rancho, Roswell, Santa Fe, Socorro and Taos, in addition to a legislative squadron and several squadrons based in schools.

Contributions from: Lt. Col. David G. Finley, Civil Air Patrol.