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Operation Pulse Lift

Operation Pulse Lift

Background & History


SUBJECT:  Civil Air Patrol, the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, was chartered by Congress and has three primary programs: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services. The ES program includes, but is not limited to, search and rescue, drug interdiction, and disaster relief. One crucial disaster relief operation is blood collection and transport. Known as Operation Pulse Lift (OPL), this mission was named one of CAP’s Top 10 Initiatives of 2020 and 2022. By 2021, it had become the largest and longest-running CAP disaster relief mission assigned by the Air Force.

DISCUSSION:  Beginning April 12, 2017, through 2019, CAP stood up OPL, providing facilities and blood support teams (BSTs) and 12 Blood Donor Centers (BDCs); collecting 527 blood unis at two AZ sites. This was the Phase I of the mission - Community Service.

-  On March 17, 2020, at the urging of the U.S. Surgeon General, because the nation had lost 80% of its donor sites due to precautionary COVID closures, OPL mobilized to support CAP’s COVID-19 response. The first BDC under this Phase II (Mobilization & Surge) of the COVID mission began on April 15, 2020 in Glendale, AZ. During the initial nine-month surge response pf 2020, CAP hosted 42 BDCs at seven sites. With donations from members nationwide, OPL collected 1,530 blood units, becoming one of the nation’s largest, temporary blood donation programs. This resulted in two Outstanding Service recognitions from the American Red Cross President/CEO.

- On April 21, 2021, OPL began BDC augmentation and transport support to the Armed Services Blood Program.  Since then, 36 multi-day BDCs were supported at Dyess AFB, TX; Joint Base San Antonio; the Air Force Academy; Ft Huachuca, AZ; and Ft Carson, CO. The blood donated at one event was sent to Washington, D.C., and Germany for returning U.S. casualties from the Kabul Airport suicide bombing.

- On December 11-12, 2021, a major tornado outbreak hit the quad-state region (MO, IL, TN, and KY), resulting in 90 deaths and hundreds injured. At the request of the ARC, OPL surged, and supported the collection of 222 units of blood from members in 31 CAP wings and the national headquarters staff.

- In 2021, CAP quintupled the 2020 effort with 93 BDC events, collecting 7,493 units from 52 wings, at 23 BDC sites, and making 372 trips to transport blood. This blood went to hospitals supporting wildland fires in the Pacific coast states, hurricanes along the Gulf of Mexico, and a southwest winter storm.

- On September 28, 2022, Category 4 Hurricane Ian hit Florida, causing massive destruction and fatalities. It also generated a 1,000-unit shortfall in the blood supply across the state. CAP responded in 72 hours with 404 units donated by individual members.

- In 2022, CAP received ARC “Premier Blood Partner” status, for its nationwide blood support efforts, while collecting 8,773 units that year at 112 BDC events. By 15 May, 2023, the total COVID collections were at 21,076 units (including emergency transports) potentially saving 63,533 lives and CAP was presented the ARC “Ironman Award.”

- On 11 May 2023 the Phase II (mission mobilization and surge) for the the COVID-19 Presidential Declared Disaster period (13 March 2020 - 11 May  2023) ended with the 300th BDC at Falcon Field, in Mesa, Arizona. This brought the mission into Phase II (Steady State-Community Service), with no drop in the urgency because of the nation-wide shortfall of blood. 

- CAP’s Kansas Wing leads in blood transports with 80 in FY23 and 389 during the COVID crisis, saving countless lives. The Texas and Arizona Wings have also participated with air and ground transports. 

- Throughout the pandemic, there have been more than 23,000 public encounters in 319 BDC events, but with stringent adherence to both safety and infectious disease protection protocols, enforced by CAP safety officers, not a single COVID cross-infection of a CAP member has occurred. None!

CONCLUSION:  Since 2017, the national award-winning Operation Pulse Lift program has supported 317 BDC events, at 41 sites, collecting 21,210 blood units. This reaffirms CAP’s status as the nation’s top Volunteer Emergency Management Agency, as recognized by the International Association of Emergency Managers in 2020 and 2021. This six-year mission has become CAP’s largest and longest-running disaster relief mission, supporting a half a dozen other disasters nationwide and resulting in five times more lives (64,019) saved, than all the combined missions in CAP’s 81-year history.

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