16:06 PM

Blood Donation Mission Ends 2020 With 1,500+ Units Collected

Maj. Margot Myers
Public Affairs Officer
Arizona Wing

On Dec. 30, as 2020 ended, Senior Member Matthew Temple of the Arizona Wing’s Willie Composite Squadron 304 in Chandler, Arizona, made Civil Air Patrol history as the 1,500th blood donor of the year in the Operation Pulse Lift blood donation program.

A CAP member for less than six months, Temple has donated blood twice at donation centers in the Phoenix area since October, becoming a “Pulse Lift frequent flyer.”

Temple’s donation was quickly followed by a report from the Ohio Wing’s former Cadet 2nd Lt. Christina Verplatse, just before reporting to U.S. Air Force basic training. This was her first donation of blood, proudly reported by her father, Capt. Allen Vamplates of the Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker Composite Squadron. Capt. Brett Kollar of the Columbus Composite Squadron checked in with a “Power Red” two-unit donation report (part of the 15 total blood units reported by Ohio Wing members).

“Congratulations to all of you (individuals and units), and thank you for being part of what is now a nationwide CAP effort,” said Lt. Col. Bob Ditch, incident commander for the Arizona Wing’s COVID-19 blood donation mission since it began in March 2020.

Operation Pulse Lift began in April 2017 as a CAP blood donation collection program. Originated by the Arizona Wing, in just over two years it grew to 12 donation events and 527 units of blood from CAP members and the general public.

On March 17, though, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams made an urgent request to the nation for blood and blood donation centers because COVID-19-related closures of many schools, universities, churches and businesses had wiped out 80% of the blood donor centers the American Red Cross relied on.

“Without any delay or hesitation, Operation Pulse Lift was thrown into high gear and the Arizona Wing mobilized its facilities and 157 members toward what became a record 41 blood donor events in just eight months,” Ditch said.

This is currently one of the longest-running missions among the many Civil Air Patrol humanitarian relief efforts related to the pandemic,” he said, adding it is also the longest Arizona Wing mission ever and the wing’s largest single mission since World War II.

In a letter to Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP national commander, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern called the Arizona Wing “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.

McGovern noted that, at that time, more than 1,000 units had been donated and wrote, "This is a remarkable accomplishment that has a truly staggering impact as each unit of blood can potentially save up to three lives.” 

On Thanksgiving Day, the Arizona Wing issued a challenge inviting all CAP wings to participate in Operation Pulse Lift as part of the ongoing COVID-19 mission. Ditch designated this challenge as the virtual 42nd blood donation event.

Since the invitation went out, 231 units of blood were donated by CAP members in 36 wings and National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, bringing the year-end total to 1,528 units.

“Congratulations to all,” Ditch said, “but the mission and collection continue in the new year.” Ditch encouraged all wings to contact their local Red Cross or other blood donor program manager, to help in Operation Pulse Lift.

After a well-earned holiday break, the Arizona Wing kicked its program back into gear Jan. 3 with five donation center events scheduled for the first week of 2021 and six total in January, hosted by four Arizona Wing squadrons.

The 388th Composite Squadron in Glendale, has two blood drives set for this week. The 388th also hosted the first blood donation center as part of the COVID-19 mission April 15 and conducted 16 drives in seven months that collected 457 units of blood.