Commentary: A message from 86 AW commander

To the 86th Airlift Wing Airmen and Team Ramstein:

During the Columbus Day weekend, outbound flights resumed to transition our remaining 9,000 Afghan evacuees to destinations in the United States. It was a day we had all been looking forward to.

Evacuee makes a peace sign as they travel to the last waiting area at the Transportation Security Administration compliant, purpose-built passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base as they prepare to travel to the United States, Oct. 9. Approximately 1,000 Afghans are expected to depart daily over the next several days. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Wongwai)

None of us could have anticipated in August that we’d still be at this two months later. As operations wind down, I hope that you all take a moment to reflect on the history that you are writing. Personally, Operation Allies Refuge/Operation Allies Welcome has been a stark reminder of the versatile and critical role our mobility force plays. At times, we are the lion, delivering the force of the U.S. military to the time and place of our choosing. Today, we are the lamb, delivering a better future and a safe haven to thousands of vulnerable people.

I am beyond humbled and impressed by the countless acts of selfless service you have demonstrated throughout this operation. Even with operations stretching on, sacrificing family time, working through countless weekends, each and every one of you jumped in to help and exemplify “service before self.” You rose to the occasion, adapted to challenges, and treated our guests with the utmost dignity and respect. Together, you’ve served more than one million meals, protected 8,800 evacuees from measles and chickenpox, inoculated thousands against COVID-19 and the flu, and welcomed more than 30 newborns. You’ve prepared our guests for a brighter future through soccer games, English language classes, and cultural workshops. Most importantly, you’ve delivered them hope.

Thank you for delivering, again and again. Thank you for working through long weekends, again. Thank you for showing why the U.S. military and its families are the greatest force for good, again. Your success is not shouldered by Ramstein alone, as it extends far beyond our military community. This success is carried by incredible USAFE-AFAF family members, NGOs, volunteers, and German and joint partners that have been here since the beginning. I am forever grateful for what we’ve accomplished together.

Let’s finish strong, bid our guests farewell, and complete the mission.

Humbly, Josh