TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
First Air Force’s pandemic-response auxiliary capabilities surpassed 10,000 man-days this week as Civil Air Patrol responded to interagency requests for assistance nationwide. Civil Air Patrol is the U.S. Air Force’s official auxiliary and is aligned with First Air Force for Defense Support of Civil Authorities for COVID-19 missions.
“CAP is a crucial mainstay of our First Air Force operations as an auxiliary capability with a long history of serving the nation,” said Brig. Gen. Bryan Radliff, Reserve Advisor to the Commander, 1st Air Force (AFNORTH). “From meals delivered, to air transport, to staffing up city emergency operations centers, and more, their selfless service is essential to our country’s pandemic response efforts.”
The nation settled in two months ago to withstand the unprecedented circumstances imposed by the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile the CAP citizen volunteers “rose up to serve,” said Maj. Gen. Mark E. Smith, CAP’s national commander and CEO. “They have banded together in recent weeks to perform a myriad of humanitarian missions as members of the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.”
CAP is directly involved in many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. To name a few:
- Served more than 3 million meals.
- Loaded hundreds of thousands of pounds of food at distribution centers.
- Staffed emergency operation centers and call centers.
- Delivered hundreds of thousands of personal protective equipment to urban and remote locations, by air and ground.
- Delivered COVID-19 test kits to hospitals and samples to labs for testing, also by air and ground.
- Established Red Cross blood donation and collection sites.
- Transported personnel by air and ground.
- Repositioned emergency operations center and incident command trailers.
- Sanitized emergency response vehicles for first responders at the end of each day.
- Took aerial photography of distribution points and test locations.
- Supported local, state and federal agencies and organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross, Salvation Army and many others.
According to Smith, the bar for CAP involvement was set in 2010 after an offshore drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the worst oil spill in American history. During that response, CAP aircrews and ground teams conducted more than 1,250 sorties, accumulating nearly 2,400 flight hours and more than 20,000 volunteer hours over 118 days of operation.
While CAP hasn’t reached the 118-day record yet, we have surpassed the number of volunteer man-hours contributed, said John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations.
In one day alone, according to CAP statistics kept during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 295 CAP volunteers at work. That is almost double the amount of volunteers on the busiest day during the oil spill, said Desmarais.
Based on CAP analysis 10,000 man-days (approximately 80,000 hours) translate into $2,034,400 in donated CAP services, said Desmariais.
CAP reached its milestone after an aircrew in New Mexico began its ninth week of COVID-19 response by transporting 67 test kits to the state Department of Health lab in Albuquerque. While, simultaneously, ground teams in southern California prepared 400 meal kits for the day in support of the Salvation Army.
Col. Ross Veta, California Wing commander, visited the Salvation Army distribution site in El Cajon to personally thank the CAP volunteers.
“Because of the work you are doing here, people won’t go hungry,” said Veta. “It isn’t often you get to directly impact someone’s life in this way. You will remember serving your community during this crisis for the rest of your life.”
CAP, while acting as the Air Force auxiliary, responds to non-military threats domestically with a capacity to save lives, relieve suffering and provide humanitarian assistance.
“Civil Air Patrol volunteers have a rich history of service to country,” Smith said. “Their record-breaking performance during this time of crisis has heightened CAP’s emergency services profile, confirming our commitment to our communities. I am so proud to be their national commander.”
Contributions to report from: Mr. Steve Cox, HQ Civil Air Patrol Public Affairs Manager; New Mexico and California Wing.