U.S. European Command components are working around the clock to provide urgent, lifesaving assistance to vulnerable Afghans and U.S. citizens.
"This is a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation, whole-of-partner, whole-of-ally process," said USEUCOM’s Commander U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters during a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, Aug. 25. "The trust and transparency that we've constructed over the course of the last several decades, in particular with our NATO allies and partners, has paid huge dividends with respect to the effectiveness of this operation."
The first evacuees arrived into Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 20, with an airlift of more than 14,000 people on 55 aircraft into Germany since USEUCOM’s support mission began as part of Operation Allies Refuge. Beginning on Aug. 22, three evacuation flights with more than 650 passengers were directed to the U.S. Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, the second transient housing site.
“From logistics such as temporary lodging, food and transportation to medical care, our personnel have been working tirelessly around the clock to ensure the safety, security and health of all involved,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Adrian Spain, USEUCOM’s operations director.
Working in concert with U.S. Central Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Transportation Command, USEUCOM and its subordinate component commands are coordinating airlift directly from Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, and its Hamid Karzai International Airport as well as Al Udeid Air Base located in Doha, Qatar. In coordination with the host nations, vulnerable Afghans and evacuees are being temporarily housed on American bases in the German cities of Kaiserslautern and Grafenwöhr, along with the naval air station in Sigonella, Italy. Flights have also been moving qualified evacuees onward to the U.S. from Ramstein Air Base with nearly 1,400 transported to America to date.
“We are grateful for the German government’s partnership in this effort and over the last 20 years in Afghanistan,” said Joseph Giordono-Scholz, U.S. Embassy Berlin’s spokesperson. “Our cooperation to bring to safety those who have supported our collective efforts in Afghanistan is a testament to the strength of our bilateral ties and our commitment as NATO allies.”
Across Europe, eight military installations in four nations stand ready to receive as many as 25,000 evacuees from Afghanistan. Beyond Germany and Italy, additional transient housing sites have been developed in Spain and Kosovo.
USEUCOM and its subordinate commands have successfully responded to the urgent call to support one of the largest, most complex humanitarian airlift operations in history. This response demonstrates the command’s ability to rapidly plan complex operations and coordinate with a full spectrum of U.S. and foreign agencies and host nations, while deploying assets to respond to any contingency operation.
While prioritized operational planning has been taking place for weeks within the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, each component – U.S. Air Forces Europe, U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Europe – immediately set into motion rapid site preparation when alerted that qualified evacuees from Afghanistan were soon to be inbound. Within 72 hours, the command was prepared to receive the first 5,000 qualified evacuees from Afghanistan into Ramstein Air Base. Each of the other transient sites in Germany as well as in Italy and Spain accelerated preparations to accommodate increasing numbers of evacuees with several of the sites doubling and tripling capacity in some 24 hours.
To date, more than 100,000 meals and 79,000 cases of bottled of water have been served to those landing into Germany.
According to American Red Cross-Europe’s deputy director, Michelle Bailey, nearly 300 community volunteers have joined the support mission at Ramstein Air Base to date, distributing comfort kits, snacks, blankets, hygiene items and baby care items to vulnerable Afghans and evacuees. Other community members and organizations continue to contribute to the collective effort by donating relief items, clothing and children's toys through the First Sergeants Council’s alliesrefuge.org efforts.
“The entire USEUCOM team has rallied to support this all-important mission whenever and wherever needed,” Spain said. “Our team is conducting this mission professionally and responsibly, while displaying the utmost humanity and respect to all of those involved.”
Click HERE to learn more about USEUCOM’s support to Operation Allies Refuge.
U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for U.S. military operations across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilian personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two U.S. forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, visit https://www.eucom.mil.