Operation Pulse Lift, Civil Air Patrol’s emergency blood donation mission, surpassed three milestones as 2023 came to an end,
On Dec. 21 the Arizona Wing’s Falcon Composite Squadron 305 hosted the 500th Operation Pulse Lift blood donor center – also the squadron’s 100th blood donation activity.
A few days earlier, the mission had reached its year-end goal early, collecting its 30,000th unit of donated blood in the longest-running humanitarian mission in CAP’s history.
Maj. Gen. Edward D. Phelka, CAP national commander/CEO, visited the Arizona Wing squadron Dec. 22 in Mesa to help celebrate the mission’s achievements. Before a ceremony at the Falcon Field Airport terminal, Phelka visited the squadron building to donate blood and chat with cadets and other donors.
Lt. Col. Bob Ditch, incident commander for Operation Pulse Lift, hosted the celebration ceremony. Along with Phelka, guests included airport manager Corinne Nystrom; Mesa City Councilmember Alicia Goforth, whose district includes the airport, Col. Robert Pinckard, Arizona Wing commander; and Jason Benedict, American Red Cross regional donor services executive.
A letter from retired Adm. Jerome Adams, the former U.S. surgeon general, commending Operation Pulse Lift was shared with the audience.
Adams’ statement March 17, 2020, about blood shortages and donation difficulties at the COVID-19 pandemic’s start motivated Ditch to pursue opening Civil Air Patrol facilities for blood drives after schools, businesses, churches, and other common collection sites were shut down.
“Your dedication and selflessness have tremendously impacted communities nationwide, saving countless lives and reaffirming CAP’s position as a leader in emergency management,” Adams wrote.
Phelka commended Ditch for “seeing a need and creatively figuring out a way to meet that need.”
“So much good has come from Operation Pulse Lift,” Phelka said, “including more than 90,000 lives potentially impacted in a positive way. Specifically, what has happened here in Arizona blows the doors off of everything we talk about when it comes to service to community, state, nation.
“Of the 502 blood drives held so far, 101 of them have happened right here at Falcon Field,” the national commander said. “This squadron has participated in 20% of the blood drives associated with Operation Pulse Lift, and that’s incredible.”
Phelka singled out the Falcon Field squadron’s commander, Maj. John Bryant, for his ongoing support of the mission and gave him a commander’s challenge coin. He also presented a coin to Ditch, calling him “the godfather of Operation Pulse Lift.”
Phelka recalled that leading up to the CAP National Conference in August, the goal for the end of 2023 was set at 25,000 units of blood donated.
“By the time we got to the conference in August, that goal had already been exceeded,” he said. “So we moved the goalpost again, hoping to get to 30,000 units by the end of the year,” Phelka said.
He then opened an envelope revealing the count as of that morning – 30,273.
Specifically addressing the cadets in attendance, Phelka noted that the concept of community service stated in both the cadet oath and CAP’s mission statement “come together right here in Operation Pulse Lift.”
Red Cross representatives presented two awards, both crafted from recycled aircraft.
Bryant’s award was fashioned from a rotor blade on a search and rescue helicopter, bearing the number 100 to recognize the squadron’s number of blood donation events held/ at the Falcon Composite Squadron.
Phelka received an award made from an airplane window, thanking CAP “on behalf of the tens of thousands of blood recipients that have benefited from Operation Pulse Lift blood drives.”
Benedict, the Red Cross regional executive, credited Operation Pulse Lift to “two of the greatest humanitarian organizations in the world coming together to alleviate human suffering, to help people in need.”
Ditch said he has already set a new goal, timed with the mission’s fourth anniversary on April 12.
“Our new goal is 33,335. Why that number? Because every donation of a unit of blood has the potential to save three people.
“When we reach that number, we will have potentially saved 100,000 lives,” he said.
The Arizona Wing wasn’t alone in receiving Amerian Red Cross recognition for its role in supporting lifesaving blood donations.
On Dec. 14, Brig. Gen. Regena Aye, national vice commander, participated in a ceremony honoring theKansas Wing with the Red Cross’ Lifetime Hero Award for 50 years of support.
The Red Cross award announcement said the wing “takes blood delivery to a whole new level – the sky. These volunteer pilots have delivered blood when no driver was available or the distance was too far by van, ensuring blood made it to hospitals where it was needed most.”
For five decades Kansas Wing members have transported needed blood supplies both within and outside the state, usually in CAP ground vehicles, when called on by the Red Cross,
The wing’s commander, Col. Mark Lahan, and four of his predecessors were present for the award ceremony — Aye, wing commander from 2008-2012; Col. Tim Hansen, 1997-2000); Chief Master Sgt. Rick Franz, 2012-2016; and Col. Linnette Lahan, 2016-2020. So was Capt. Brad Hawthorne, Air Capital Composite Squadron commander, who has participated in dozens of blood transport missions.
Maj. Margot Myers
Public Information Officer
Operation Pulse Lift