West Virginia Guard played pivotal role in Afghan evacuation Published Sept. 9, 2021 By Maj. Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Soldiers and Airmen of the West Virginia National Guard were critical components of Operation Allies Refuge, the State Department-led project of evacuating Afghan citizens and Americans before the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan Aug. 31. The 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston and 111th Engineer Brigade, currently deployed to Kuwait, all provided specialized assistance to the operation. Two aircrews from the 167th Airlift Wing, which flies the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, transported passengers and cargo into and out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The Martinsburg-based unit completed 14 sorties over 13 days, carrying 1,224 passengers and 37.7 short tons of cargo. In addition, a team of specialized security forces, known as U.S. Air Force Phoenix Ravens, deployed from the 167th Airlift Wing and 130th Airlift Wing to provide security for the aircraft operating in and out of Afghanistan. Five Ravens from the West Virginia Air National Guard helped secure aircraft access on the ground and for the flight crews to ensure the safe evacuation of people out of Afghanistan. The 111th Theater Engineer Brigade, which includes units from the Active-Duty Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard and is commanded by a West Virginia National Guard Soldier, has been the lead unit for all engineer aspects of safe-haven locations in Kuwait and Qatar. This unit planned and oversaw the construction from the onset of Operation Allies Refuge to include fabricating lodging, medical, dining and processing facilities. In addition, the 111th Engineer Brigade provided command and control, medical, logistical, and public affairs support for more than 5,000 Afghan evacuees. “I could not be more proud of the work that our West Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen performed during Operation Allies Refuge,” said Brig. Gen. William Crane, adjutant general of West Virginia. “On top of all the other missions our people are engaged in – from COVID response to Hurricane Ida and wildfires in California, West Virginia Guardsmen stepped up to the challenge and answered the call when needed most. This is what we train for and I know our men and women are full of pride for what they accomplished during such a dangerous and tense operation.” The West Virginia National Guard is home to more than 6,400 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen in over 60 units and two flying wings.