U.S. Air Force Airmen, U.S. Army soldiers and other agencies joined forces at Ramstein Air Base, in providing services to Afghan evacuees during Operation Allies Refuge throughout the month of August and September.
“Everyone wants to come out, help, and volunteer,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Pacheco, 1st Combat Communications Squadron cyber systems operations craftsman, but here the senior enlisted leader for Pod three. “NATO allies have come to help, some NATO members have come here on their off-time to play with the kids and help, we’ve had the Red Cross. The whole team is working 12 hours a day cleaning up, organizing food, lining up interpreters for people who don’t speak the same language as you, and finding people in a crowd of 3,000 evacuees.”
In addition, 361st Civil Affairs Brigade U.S. Army Soldiers are assisting OAR by becoming liaisons between the Afghan and U.S. service members.
“I’m assigned to the 361st CAB, we’ve been activated to come here and provide intercultural communication and support to the U.S. Air Force,” said U.S. Army Capt. Gareth Anderson, 361st CAB civil affairs officer. “What I am doing is liaising between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, and between interagency organizations, for example U.S. AID, the U.S. Army, and the task force that is here.”
Despite there being long hours and challenges, there are still rewards in situations like these, notably family reunions. During the evacuations out of Afghanistan, families unfortunately disconnected and landed in different Pods and locations. Airmen at RAB work to ensure that if a temporary separation does happen, they are reunited.
“I’ve been fortunate enough in my position because it has allowed me to reunite families, it’s one of those things that happen without mass amounts of people hearing about it,” Pacheco said. “We find out about someone who is missing one of their family members and it is our job to find the missing family member if they’re located here. Moments like that are ones that are tear jerkers, where you need to turn your head away while you gain your bearings, it’s been pretty awesome.”
Airmen, Soldiers, and volunteers are working around the clock to provide evacuees resources spanning from basic necessities such as food, showers, and shelter, all the way to resources such as reuniting family members.