Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol Transporting Coronavirus Test Kits in New Mexico

29 April 2020
By Lt. Col. Dave Finley, CAP

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Wing members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), acting as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, are assisting the New Mexico National Guard in transporting COVID-19 test kits in New Mexico.

The operation began Friday with a CAP flight bringing sampled test kits from Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces to the Scientific Laboratory Division of the NM Department of Health in Albuquerque for processing.

Flying the test kits from Las Cruces to Albuquerque allows processing to start sooner and provides quicker results to physicians and patients. New Mexico Wing ground crews pick up the packages from the hospital and transport them to Las Cruces International Airport. A CAP aircrew flies the samples to Albuquerque, where another ground team delivers them to the laboratory.

The National Guard has been transporting the kits for the NM Department of Health, and requested CAP assistance with the task.

The April 24 flight was the first in an ongoing operation for the New Mexico Wing. The CAP is prepared to continue supporting COVID-19 response efforts for the foreseeable future.

“We have the aircraft, vehicles, safety protocols, and trained volunteers to help our fellow New Mexicans at this challenging time, and we welcome the opportunity to do so,” said CAP Lt. Col. John Grassham, incident commander for the mission.

The CAP support is being funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Federal funding was enabled by a presidential disaster declaration, which now covers all 50 states.

CAP members experienced in organizing and supporting emergency-services operations formed an incident management team that worked using online tools and videoconferencing, maintaining the social-distancing practices mandated statewide.

“Our volunteers throughout the state have come together as a unified team to accomplish this new and important mission. We are happy to support our communities in the vital fight against this disease,” said CAP New Mexico Wing Commander Col. Annette Peters.

Acting as a Total Force partner and official civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, Civil Air Patrol is aligned with First Air Force to rapidly respond to non-military threats domestically when tasked in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.


About the Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of more than 80 lives annually. CAP’s more than 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to nearly 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit or for more information.

The New Mexico Wing is one of 52 Wings in the CAP. Founded in 1941, the same year as CAP, the New Mexico Wing has been serving the nation and local communities through the CAP’s missions of Emergency Services, Aerospace Education, and the CAP Cadet Program. Today, with more than 800 members and 12 aircraft, the wing is an active and valuable part of New Mexico’s emergency-response infrastructure, working with state and local agencies to enhance public safety. Wing members devote large amounts of volunteer time to training and serving for emergency services; to advancing education about aviation, space, and high-tech careers; and to teaching and mentoring our nation’s leaders of tomorrow.

In New Mexico, the CAP has squadrons in Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Clovis, Edgewood, Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces, Los Alamos, Rio Rancho, Roswell, Santa Fe, Socorro, and Taos, in addition to a legislative squadron and several squadrons based in schools.


(L to R) SM Frederic Letson, Memorial Medical Center Administrator Caryn Iverson, Nurse Twyla Anderson and Chaplain (Major) John Tobar load COVID-19 test kits into a CAP van at Memorial Medical Center, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Letson and Tobar are members of New Mexico Wing’s Las Cruces Composite Squadron. CAP Photo by Lt. Col. Walter Dutton.

(L to R) Pilot Capt. William Benzinger, Mission Observer Lt. Col. Robert Macklin, drivers 2nd Lt. Kacie Rhodes, and Capt. Bryan Neal unloading package at Albuquerque International Sunport. Benzinger and Macklin are in the Las Cruces Composite Squadron; Rhodes is in the Rio Rancho Falcon Composite Squadron, and Neal is in Eagle Cadet Squadron. CAP Photo by Lt. Col. Larry Zentner.


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