National Guard supports vulnerable Afghans at military bases

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  • By National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – National Guard Airmen and Soldiers from around the nation are helping support Afghan personnel who are temporarily housed at Department of Defense installations as part of Operation Allies Refuge.

The Defense Department, through U.S. Northern Command and at the State Department's request, agreed to provide transportation and temporary housing, sustainment and support in the United States for Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families and other at-risk individuals.

U.S. military bases taking in evacuees from Afghanistan include Fort Lee, Fort Pickett and Marine Corps Base Quantico, all in Virginia; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

"As Hoosiers, we are proud to do our part and provide a temporary home for Afghan evacuees who have supported this nation," Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb said. "Our federal partners are taking necessary and appropriate steps to establish that there is a smooth process to allow these men, women and children to quickly find their permanent home across the United States. I have faith in the Indiana National Guard's ability to support this federal mission."

Task Force Atterbury, consisting of active-duty and National Guard service members, will provide housing, medical, logistics and transportation when the Afghan personnel arrive, which has yet to be determined.

"Our Hoosier Guardsmen are honored to join our fellow Americans to help, assist and host Afghans who played an integral part and helped us for nearly 20 years," said Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, Indiana National Guard adjutant general.

In Wisconsin, Army National Guard linguists Cpl. Sean Jackett and Spc. Zackary Jensen created signs in Dari and Pashto Aug. 25 to place in a welcome area for Afghan personnel arriving at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center near Camp Douglas.

About 50 Washington National Guard Airmen traveled to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Aug. 28 to lend a hand.

"We have so many people who have been connected to Afghanistan the last 20 years and want to help in any way they can," said Lt. Col. Lisa Weaver. "It's an opportunity to make a difference in a situation where it really is necessary: working directly with displaced nationals, helping them settle, and keeping them safe."

Before they left for New Jersey, the state's adjutant general, Army Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, talked about the historic nature of Operation Allies Refuge.

"You are about to play a part in what very well could be the last chapter in 20 years of war in Afghanistan," he said. "The work you are going to do here is going to set the stage for major contributions for generations, and not everyone gets to do that."

Also assisting were 99 Airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing, 106th Rescue Wing, 107th Attack Wing, 109th Airlift Wing and the 174th Attack Wing. 

Approximately 30 Rhode Island National Guard Airmen from the 143d Airlift Wing based out of Quonset Air National Guard Base, North Kingstown, have volunteered to deploy to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to assist as part of the task force. The task force will provide housing, medical, logistics and transportation support.

"I am proud of our Rhode Island National Guard men and women who stepped up and volunteered to assist those vulnerable Afghans being evacuated from overseas," said Rhode Island Gov. Daniel J. McKee. "Their volunteerism and eagerness to be a part of a solution is consistent with everything I know about the National Guard."

Six Airmen from the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, have also volunteered in support of Operation Allies Refuge. Three will be supporting efforts at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, with the remaining members assigned to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

The Airmen will be providing a range of support.

"Our highly trained and experienced Airmen continue to be a sword and shield for the state and nation when called upon," said Maj. Gen. Greg Porter, adjutant general of Wyoming. "I'm incredibly proud of the Airmen who have volunteered to assist in Operation Allies Refuge."

"Our Wyoming Air National Guard stands ready to help these Afghans who stood with us and bravely supported the American effort overseas," Gov. Mark Gordon said.

Lt. Col. Alyson Teeter of the Washington Air National Guard; Eric Durr of the New York National Guard; Capt. Mark Incze, Rhode Island National Guard; Lt. Col. Randi Jo Bougere, Indiana National Guard; and the Wyoming and Wisconsin National Guard contributed to this story.