Civil Air Patrol

Arizona Wing, American Red Cross Reach Blood Donation Milestone

Arizona Wing met its goal of collecting 1,000 units of blood for the American Red Cross on Wednesday, more than a month before the Thanksgiving target date.

The wing passed the 1,000-unit mark in Glendale, where the 388th Composite Squadron hosted the wing’s 32nd emergency blood donation drive with the Red Cross in six months. The wing stepped in when pandemic-related restrictions prevented the Red Cross from collecting blood at its usual sites for doing so.

“Since the evening of March 17, when the surgeon general noted the critical need for blood donations during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and the closure of nearly 4,000 blood donation centers, the Arizona Wing has been engaged in the coordination, planning and execution of the longest series of blood donation center operations in the nation by a single organization,” said Lt. Col. Bob Ditch, the wing’s incident commander for the blood drive mission..

Kurt Kroemer, Red Cross CEO for the Arizona-New Mexico-El Paso Region, cited the importance of a steady supply of much-needed blood. “Many of our partners will host a blood drive once a year,” Kroemer said. “The fact that you have sponsored more than 30 blood drives since mid-April is remarkable.”

The first two blood drives were held in April by the 388th Composite Squadron in Glendale and the Falcon Composite Squadron in Mesa. Since then, squadrons in Eloy, Show Low and Sierra Vista have joined the mission.

Capt. Klara Olcott, commander of the 388th Composite Squadron, not only manages the blood drives at her squadron’s facility but is also a blood donor.

Capt. Klara Olcott was seven days into commanding the 388th Composite when the blood donation mission started to take shape. “Putting on blood drives is a large time investment,” Olcott said, “but when our squadron took on this mission, I was confident we would be able to support it because we have capable leaders and a cohesive team. I fully credit them for stepping up to the call.”

The mission is ongoing, with another blood drive slated for the Falcon Composite Squadron on Oct. 21 and five additional drives scheduled into mid-November. “The Arizona Wing will continue this critical lifesaving mission into 2021,“though likely at a reduced pace,” Ditch said.

The blood donated in Arizona goes wherever it is needed most. Recently, some of the blood has been sent to hospitals in California treating people injured by wildfires.

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