The Civil Air Patrol‘s nationwide response during the COVID-19 pandemic has been record-setting, totaling more than 10,000 man-days of support over the first 70 days of operations.
“As much of the nation settled in two months ago to withstand the unprecedented circumstances imposed by the novel coronavirus, our 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.”
Civil Air Patrol’s involvement in Operation Deepwater Horizon set the organization’s bar for emergency services in 2010 after the offshore drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the worst oil spill in American history. During the 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.
“We haven’t reached the 118-day record yet, but we have far surpassed the number of volunteer hours contributed,” said John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations.
Statistics from the Deepwater Horizon response show 150 CAP members were involved. “That was over the course of the entire event, and we’ve more than surpassed that just today,” he said.
And how. Statistics kept during the COVID pandemic show 295 CAP members working on May 13 alone. On that day, 55 ongoing missions — many of them assigned by the Air Force — were being conducted in 29 states. Collectively, members have already contributed over 10,000 man-days (not hours, but days).
Assuming eight hours per man-day and using the average nationwide volunteer rate of $25.43 per hour from IndependentSector.org, 10,000 man-days (approximately 80,000 hours) translate into $2,034,400 in donated CAP services.
This latest CAP milestone was reached on May 13, 2020, less than 48 hours after an aircrew in New Mexico began the ninth week of the response by transporting 67 test kits to the state Department of Health lab in Albuquerque while 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,” he told them. “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.”
Details of Civil Air Patrol’s pandemic relief activities are too numerous to mention. However, some highlights from operations during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- 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.
Civil Air Patrol, acting as the Air Force auxiliary, is aligned with First Air Force to rapidly respond to non-military threats domestically. When executing Air Force assigned missions, members work as a component of the U.S. Air Force in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities 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.”
Established in 1941, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and 1,550 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 110 lives in fiscal 2019. CAP’s 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies and, as a nonprofit organization, plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to more than 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. CAP benefits the nation with an estimated economic impact of $209 million annually.