386th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen uphold theater gateway name during NEO airlift

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

August 14, 2021, marked the beginning of a historic moment for the U.S. Air Force and the world.

This was the start of the largest non-combatant evacuation operation airlift in U.S. history, as more than 124,000 people, around 5,000 of whom transited through Ali Al Salem Air Base, were safely evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, in 17 days.

“I am extremely proud of the men and women of the 386 AEW, not just as a commander but because of the humanity, hard work and perseverance they demonstrated during this monumental airlift movement,” said Col. Clinton Wilson, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “From commanders all the way down to Airmen, everyone put a tremendous amount of time and effort into ensuring we lived up to our name as the theater gateway.”

Throughout the Afghanistan evacuation, the wing facilitated the lodging and transportation for more than 1,500 service members who transited to and from HKIA for support.

“All of this was possible thanks to cooperation with our host nation, Kuwait, as well as our coalition partners working and planning together to support the tremendous number of flights and personnel that transited through Ali Al Salem Air Base during that short time frame,” Wilson said.

Throughout the operation, the 386th AEW enabled more than 725 flights in and out of Ali Al Salem AB, pushed and received over 3.6 million pounds of cargo, and reset the local record from eight to 15 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft parked on the flightline at once.

“This evacuation truly speaks about our Airmen’s abilities to adapt to whatever mission is presented to them,” said Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Buck, 386th AEW command chief. “Not only did we provide support here, but we also had several Airmen travel to other evacuation reception locations to help there as well.”

A group of chaplains, first sergeants and mental health providers traveled to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to help the evacuees and offered their services to the military members there.

“The job that we were able to accomplish speaks volumes to the mettle and dedication of everyone here,” Buck said. “We would not have been able to help so many people and achieve a safe evacuation without every Airman here stepping up, working outside their normal boxes, and meeting the challenges head-on. I could ask for nothing more from them.”