RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — About 140 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 2, 2021, to help with Operation Allies Refuge.
Through Operation Allies Refuge, the Army is providing temporary housing, medical, and logistical support to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security for Afghan special immigrants and their families. “I think there’s a lot of compassion, the Soldiers have a lot of compassion for what they see,” explains Cpt. Robert Straskulic, a battery commander assigned to the 1-6 FAR, 41st FAB. “They’re involved in a real world event that is affecting the lives of people that helped us, it’s kinda giving back to those that have helped us.” Ramstein Air Base is a transit center that provides a safe place for the evacuees to complete their paperwork while security and background checks are conducted before they continue on to their final destination.
In order to keep the visitors fed, the Soldiers are up early prepping for breakfast. After dinner things slow down, they take this time to walk around camp and make sure everything is clean. Some will also join a game of volleyball or soccer with the Afghan children. While here, Afghan evacuees are placed into temporary dwellings, called pods, that have been constructed along the flightline resembling a small city. “We’ve been assigned pods one and three,” Straskulic said. “We have a team that does all the meals and they've been linked in with the Air Force counterparts, making these meals, making the snacks and getting that all prepped.”
The 41st FAB Soldiers are doing the behind the scenes work, and doing it efficiently. For a task that would normally take 15-20 personnel, they complete it with just eight. “With the Army you give us a task and we’re just, alright how can we make this happen efficiently and faster and sustain it,” adds Sgt. Gage Thibert, a fire control specialist assigned to the 1-6 FAR, 41st FAB. “That’s what we did on our first day here, we made 5,000 meals in just a couple hours.” Depending on the time of day or night, the Soldiers can be seen inside the pods cleaning and taking out the trash and making sure the living conditions are acceptable. This work is almost non-stop, 24 hours a day. Straskulic said they went from 12 hour shifts to eight, so Soldiers could have a little bit more time off and still have someone here and available 24 hours a day.
Thibert said preparing for Operation Allies Refuge was similar to prepping for the field. “We have a set, we need to get this done, we need it done by this time frame, so we’re kinda used to prepping for the field,” he described. “We’re going to make sure everything is done, we got this amount of time to do it, we’re gonna get it done before that in case something changes and we need to be ready.”