N.M. Wing Exceeds 10,400 Virus Test Samples Transported
Lt. Col. Dave Finley
Public Affairs Officer
Socorro Composite Squadron
New Mexico Wing
In Civil Air Patrol’s longest-running mission since World War II, tthe New Mexico Wing has so far flown more than 10,400 COVID-19 test samples from cities across the state to laboratories in Albuquerque for processing.
“Working with our partners to help the people of New Mexico during this pandemic is a privilege and an honor,” said Brig. Gen. William Betts, vice commander, First Air Force, Air Forces Northern. “We depend on CAP’s auxiliary transportation capabilities and are proud of their service to our nation.”
Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the wing's mission is to assist the New Mexico National Guard, which is supporting state Department of Health. Since the mission began in April, wing aircrews have totaled more than 200 flight hours and ground teams have driven nearly 2,500 miles transporting samples to and from airports.
The effort has provided nearly three years' worth of volunteer labor.
“COVID-19 testing requires prompt results, and New Mexico’s Civil Air Patrol has made that possible for thousands in our state,” said Kathy Kunkel, Department of Health cabinet secretary. “The emergency services they’ve provided have been significant in our state’s efforts to test for slowing the spread of this virus.”
The wing “continues to do incredible work on behalf of New Mexicans during this COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Maj. Gen. Ken Nava, adjutant general of New Mexico. “Their rapid response in transporting test kits throughout the state and specimens back to the lab is critical to the success of our testing efforts as we work to defeat the coronavirus.”
The CAP flights have transported samples from Carlsbad, Clovis, Deming, Farmington, Las Cruces, Lordsburg, Ruidoso and Truth or Consequences to the Department of Health's Scientific Laboratory Division or to TriCore Reference Laboratories, both in Albuquerque. In addition to transporting test samples for laboratory processing, some flights have carried new test kits or personal protective equipment from the Department of Health to cities where they were needed.
"Many of our members have worked long and hard on this mission and continue to do so. Some of the tasks have come up on short notice, and our crews responded quickly. It's been gratifying to see the dedication to volunteer service that our members have demonstrated,” said Lt. Col. John Grassham, the wing's director of emergency services.
In addition to the aircrews and ground teams, an incident management team – often holding daily video conferences – has provided planning, communications and logistical support for the New Mexico Wing mission. More than 100 members have participated in a variety of roles.
"We are accustomed to missions, such as search and rescue, that last no longer than a couple of weeks. A mission this long is completely new to us, and I'm very proud of how resourceful and resilient our members have been in adapting to this challenging new reality," said Col. Annette Peters, wing commander.
"Some of our members have undertaken additional training to gain new qualifications so they can help with this mission," Peters added.
The mission is expected to continue through at least Sept. 20.
Acting as a Total Force partner and the official U.S. Air Force auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol is aligned with First Air Force to rapidly respond to nonmilitary threats domestically when tasked in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.