SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich --
The Civil Air Patrol was established in 1941 and has evolved into a premier public service organization that continues to support emergency missions throughout the country when needed. As a total force partner and auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, the CAP found a way to assist with Michigan’s response to COVID-19 while preserving its 79-year legacy of service and maintaining its commitment to nearly 1,500 communities nationwide.
The CAP partnered with the Michigan State Police, who handle emergency management and lead the State’s Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Almost from the moment the SEOC stood up a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CAP has offered valuable resources.
“To date, the State of Michigan has requested four different types of support from CAP and every request has been approved by the Department of Defense, via First Air Force,” CAP Col. Leo Burke, incident commander, TFC Regional Care Facility. “The first two requests involved transporting COVID-19 Test kits, personal protective equipment, and other urgently needed material to a variety of cities in Michigan.”
Even as the CAP assists the state, this is a multi-team effort. The Michigan National Guard has been working in conjunction with the governor’s office to complete the COVID-19 testing requirements that have been established for high-risk facilities, to include correctional facilities throughout the Upper Peninsula.
“The Michigan State Police requested our assistance in transporting COVID-19 testing kits throughout Michigan,” said CAP Capt. Christopher Jones, public affairs officer for the Civil Air Patrol, Michigan Wing. “We were asked to assist because we could quickly, efficiently, and effectively meet the needs of the State of Michigan.”
The CAP, made up of a core of volunteers, will use one of the ten available single engine aircrafts assigned to the Michigan Wing and make multiple trips throughout the state, delivering test kits and picking up test kits that require processing.
“We were asked to assist with the transportation of COVID test kits to the Upper Peninsula,” said CAP Col. Rajesh Kothari, Michigan Wing Commander. “Michigan Wing CAP aircrews delivered test kits to Sawyer International Airport last week and we picked up completed kits less than a week later to return them to the state laboratory in Lansing for testing.”
Even though this is the first delivery of live test kits to the state laboratory, this isn’t a one-time deal.
“We plan on doing multiple missions a week,” said Jones. “So far, we have flown over 400 test kits from various parts of the state to the laboratory for processing.”
The CAP is known for its aircraft, but they have many other capabilities to help the state during the novel virus pandemic response.
In late March, the state had exhausted most of its qualified Incident Management Team (IMT) members and asked CAP to provide a staff member for the TCF Regional Care Center. TCF is a 1000 bed field hospital that was stood up in Detroit’s largest convention center to handle COVID-19 patients.
“We have been augmenting the IMT at the TCF located in downtown Detroit since late April,” said Capt Jones, adding that since the first half of May, CAP has assumed overall incident command and staffed the IMT for the next two-week cycle.
The amount of work and volunteer hours continue to grow as more responsibilities are shifted to the CAP.
“We have provided a demobilization leader and check-in supervisor at the TCF” said Kothari. “Beginning on May 8, CAP volunteer Airmen have been asked to take over staffing of the Incident Command Post (ICP) for the next two-week IMT cycle,” adding that to date, the CAP has provided over 200 volunteer man-hours in support of this tasking.
With the flying missions and TCF support mission established, the CAP Michigan Wing continues to look for more ways to support the state of Michigan.
“There are assignments that have developed as the state learns of the CAP’s capabilities,” said Kothari, adding that a lot of the education and insight has come from the relationships that continue to develop with the CAP and state of Michigan.
The types of missions the State of Michigan and the nation can utilize the Civil Air Patrol for is vast with multiple facets, where citizen-Airmen volunteers continue to support their communities in their state.
“Other ways the Civil Air Patrol supports our communities around the country is through conducting search and rescue missions, low level route surveys, aerial photography, disaster relief, counter drug surveillance, humanitarian efforts and just recently with the COVID-19 pandemic to just name a few” said Jones. “This is possible because we have more than 1,300 dedicated volunteer members throughout Michigan, and 66,000 members around the country.”
The Civil Air Patrol also has a cadet program, ages 12-20 that volunteer to assist, learn about aerospace engineering, have the opportunity to learn to fly powered aircraft, gliders and hot air balloons, along with learning leadership skills, how to conduct search and rescue missions, rocketry, cyber security and drones among many other programs.
"The Civil Air Patrol is here to assist the nation, state and community anyway we can,” said Jones. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the residents of this great state and nation," said Jones.