The 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron has been a major asset for evacuees seeking resettlement locations during Operation Allies Refuge.
The unit’s assistance in OAR started even before the evacuees arrived as they helped transport aircrew to help with evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.
“It was hectic,” Staff Sgt. Cole Dredge, 86th VRS central dispatcher said. “And then we went straight from that into [evacuees].”
In an average month, 86th VRS handles 13,000 passengers. During the month of August, the 86th VRS moved over 70,000 passengers.
“We’re the first Airmen [evacuees] see when they leave the plane,” said Tech. Sgt. David Martinez, 86th VRS chief dispatcher. “And we’re the last people they see when they depart.”
The 86th VRS has also experienced an exponential increase in vehicle requests during Operation Allies Refuge, operating around 15 buses at one time and various heavy equipment vehicles to help other units such as the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron build shelters for evacuees.
To maintain demand, the 86th VRS requested help from other Logistics Readiness Squadrons in the European theater, such as the 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron in Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England and the 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron in Aviano Air Base, Italy.
“We can’t just pull any bus driver and stick them on the flightline,” Martinez said. “You’ve got to have a competency card to know how to approach an aircraft and you’ve got the restricted areas too.”
Despite the challenges, Martinez has been brightened by the resilience shown by his Airmen.
“A lot of times young Airmen see that we’re just driving from point A to point B and they don’t really understand the big picture of what we’re actually doing,” Martinez said. “With all of this happening right here the Airmen are fired up.”
Staff Sgt. Brian O’Connor, 86th VRS ground transportation support operator, agrees.
“I’ve been in the Air Force nine years and I’ve never been in any sort of evacuation effort on this level,” O’Connor said. “I’m happy to be a part of it and see my Airmen grow doing this.”