LOUISVILLE, Ky. – More than 40 Kentucky Air National Guard members have played a key role in the reception of evacuees arriving from Afghanistan since Aug. 22.
The Airmen, all from the Louisville-based 123rd Contingency Response Group, deployed to Wisconsin Aug. 21 and began supporting airfield operations immediately. They started receiving evacuees the next day.
Over the next 10 days, until Operation Allies Refuge was declared complete Aug. 31, the Airmen processed more than 50 aircraft carrying over 5,900 evacuees while working with Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 271st Movement Control Team, said 1st Lt. Matt Hourigan, logistics readiness officer for the 123rd CRG. Once on the ground, the evacuees were transported to nearby Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, for further processing.
The effort was part of a larger Department of Defense mission to assist the State Department, according to Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff.
"The Department of Defense recently approved a request for assistance from the State Department to provide temporary housing, sustainment and support inside the United States for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa principal applicants, their families and other individuals at risk," Piatt said.
"U.S. Northern Command is the Department of Defense's lead combatant command for this mission in the continental United States and is providing oversight in support of the Department of State. U.S. Army North, as U.S. Northern Command's Joint Force Land Component Command, is the lead operational command for this mission. The task force at Fort McCoy will provide the housing, medical, logistics and transportation support.
"We are proud to join U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command and the Department of Defense team in supporting the State Department with this mission."
Other locations taking in evacuees from Afghanistan temporarily include Fort Lee, Fort Pickett and Marine Corps Base Quantico, all in Virginia; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Maj. Andrew Kochman, who served as the Kentucky Air Guard's mission commander at Volk Field, said he was equally proud of the performance of his Airmen, many of whom had just returned from Vigilant Guard, a training exercise in Puerto Rico, the night before deploying for what is now called Operation Allies Welcome. The Airmen also had to work through a power outage as they prepared to depart.
"The bottom line is that the way we deployed was a non-standard operation, but we were able to flex and make it happen," Kochman said.
He also expressed his appreciation to the Army's 271st Movement Control Team, which worked seamlessly with the Air Guardsmen in Wisconsin to process evacuees.
"The interoperability of our two units was pretty flawless and contributed a great deal to the success of this mission," Kochman said.