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Emergency Services

Growing from its World War II experience, the Civil Air Patrol has continued to save lives and alleviate human suffering through a myriad of emergency-services and operational missions.

Search and Rescue

Perhaps best known for its search-and-rescue efforts, CAP flies more than 85 percent of all federal inland search-and-rescue missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fl.

Outside the continental United States, CAP supports the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Just how effective are the CAP missions? Nearly 100 people are saved each year by CAP members.

Using a locater to find the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter).

Search line found a clue in the search.Search line advancing in the field.Carrying out the pretend wounded on a litter.

Photos: Cadets using a direction-finding system to locate the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter), finding a clue, utilizing a search line, and carrying out the "injured" person on a litter during a training exercise.

Disaster Relief

Another important service CAP performs is disaster-relief operations. CAP provides air and ground transportation and an extensive communications network. Volunteer members fly disaster-relief officials to remote locations and provide manpower and leadership to local, state and national disaster-relief organizations.

CAP has formal agreements with many government and humanitarian relief agencies including the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Recently, CAP aligned with First Air Force for Defense Support of Civil Authorities missions to help domestic missions with COVID-19 relief.

“These missions are making a big difference in our local communities, our states, and our nation,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander and chief executive officer. “Over 41,000 volunteer days have been logged in our biggest endeavor since World War II. On top of that, volunteers and staff have innovated to conquer pandemic-imposed roadblocks to ensure we get the business of CAP done.”

Wing Public Affairs Officer helping to package PPE supplies.Crow Wing Squadron Dodge family assisting with packing PPE supplies.Members of local Squadrons assisting with PPE packaging.
Photos: MN Wing members participated in an Air Force-assigned Covid Relief PPE packing and organization mission.

Humanitarian Services

CAP flies humanitarian missions, usually in support of the Red Cross-transporting time-sensitive medical materials including blood and human tissue, in situations where other means of transportation are not available.

Air Force Support

It’s hardly surprising that CAP performs several missions in direct support of the U.S. Air Force. Specifically, CAP conducts light transport, communications support, and low-altitude route surveys.

CAP also provides orientation flights for AFROTC cadets.

Joint U.S. Air Force and CAP search-and-rescue exercises provide realistic training for missions.


CAP joined the “war on drugs” in 1986 when, pursuant to congressional authorization, CAP signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Customs Service offering CAP resources to help stem the flow of drugs into and within the United States.

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