Civil Air Patrol Hits Milestone in Relief Flying

The organization has flown 10,000 units of blood in Operation Pulse Lift.

Maj. Gen. Edward D. Phelka, CAP’s national commander and CEO, gave blood on January 16 at a donor site near his Michigan home as part of Operation Pulse Lift campaign to collect blood for the American Red Cross. [Courtesy: Civil Air Patrol]

This week, the Civil Air Patrol’s “Operation Pulse Lift” mission reached a major milestone by collecting its 10,000th blood unit.

Barb Clevenger of Mesa, Arizona, donated the milestone blood at an emergency blood center at the patrol’s Falcon Composite Squadron 305.

“My mom gave blood, and that was something that was very important to her,” Clevenger said. “I just started giving, and I’m so excited to be doing this in honor of my mother.” 

Since World War II, the CAP has been part of the nation's emergency infrastructure, conducting search and rescue missions and organizing blood drives and transporting blood during times of medical emergency. The CAP was created in 1941 as an auxiliary of the U. S. Air Force. Transporting blood by land and air is part of the CAP mission, with more than 500 trips to remote hospital locations by CAP aircrews and drivers. 

American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern called CAP “an incredible partner in responding, not only to the urgent need for critical blood products, but also the need for facilities to host blood drives.”

About the Mission

According to Lieutenant Colonel Bob Ditch, CAP incident commander for Operation Pulse Lift, the mission was launched in Arizona before the start of the pandemic and kept going because the need for blood donations hasn’t stopped.

“Since the evening of March 17, 2020, when the surgeon general noted the critical need for blood donations during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and the closure of nearly 7,000 blood donation centers, Civil Air Patrol has been engaged in the coordination, planning, and execution of the longest series of blood donation center operations in the nation by a single organization,” he said.

Since April 2020, CAP has sponsored 146 emergency blood donation centers to support the COVID-19 humanitarian assistance mission.The donation centers are located in:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Kentucky
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Virginia 

Blood collected at these locations has been used to support hospitals in California and Oregon during wildfire season, Texas and Louisiana for hurricanes, and the Southwest for a major winter storm. The mission’s emergency blood donation effort collected 222 units of blood in response to the December 2021 tornados in Kentucky, Tennessee, and surrounding areas.

In addition, the mission has also supported blood collection activities at six U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force installations through the Armed Services Blood Program. This included blood going to hospitals in Washington, D.C., and Germany that treated casualties from the August 2021 Kabul Airport suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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