86th CRG serve in Cyprus; 435th MDG Airmen return

Nate Cairney
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The recent movement of personnel and supplies in and out of Lebanon and
Cyprus has been a massive undertaking, requiring cooperation across all
U.S. service branches. Ramstein Airmen have been at the heart of the
matter since the beginning. Members of the 86th Contingency Response
Group continue to operate in Cyprus, and Airmen from the 435th Medical
Group recently returned to Germany.

Operation Levant began in late July as an all-services response to the
crisis in Lebanon. Thousands of Lebanon-based American citizens were
whisked away to Cyprus, where some travelled through Ramstein on their
way to the United States.

“The first few weeks, we conducted the largest American evacuation
since the Korean War,” said Maj. Rob Waarvik, 86th CRG element
commander. “Overall, we’ve helped move more than 10,000 people and 860
cargo tons of humanitarian supplies.”

The majority of the CRG team arrived July 22 at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus
and immediately began providing in-transit tracking assistance and
material handling equipment. The group continues to load, unload and
track cargo, and pushes most of it to international airports in Pathos
and Larnaca.

They aren’t alone in their efforts. According to Major Waarvik, the
operation has been a joint effort of all four major service branches.

“We’ve operated primarily under Naval leadership, and have been joined
by a special ops group from Mildenhall, a Marine expeditionary group,
and a handful of Army guys,” he said. “It’s been a good mix of the team
concept. We really couldn’t do any of this stuff without one another.”

While approximately 15 members of the CRG are staying in Cyprus to
continue the humanitarian efforts in Lebanon, 21 Airmen from Ramstein’s
435th Medical Group returned Aug. 7.

While there, members of the 435th MDG partnered with a CRG doctor and
13 Navy personnel to provide extensive ship-to-plane medical coverage
for Americans leaving Lebanon.

According to Col. Carol Vermillion, the 435th MDG commander who
deployed to Cyprus as the Expeditionary Medical Support commander, the
experience was rewarding. “They (members of the 435th MDG) really felt
like they had accomplished something,” she said. “A lot of them said,
‘this is why I came into the Air Force.’”

Major Waarvik echoed those sentiments, saying his group was happy to answer the call.

“Helping fellow American citizens is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s worthy work.”