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Red Tails support Afghanistan noncombatant evacuation operation

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Traci Keller
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 332nd AEW continue to return to base following various forward deployments in support of the Afghanistan noncombatant evacuation operation.

Overall, more than 100 332nd AEW personnel forward deployed to Afghanistan and various bases in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to assist in operations.

Support operations began for the Wing Aug. 17, when the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron was asked to provide 200 cases of meals-ready-to-eat to 82nd Airborne Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.

“I am so humbled to be a part of this team,” said Maj. Melissa Day, 332nd EFSS commander. “The Airmen and contractors of the 332nd EFSS brought compassion and positivity to this mission. They bring this same energy to work every day and are proud to be Red Tails.”

The 332nd Expeditionary Contracting Squadron also provided key assistance by locally purchasing and transporting humanitarian items, including diapers, baby formula, hygiene items and clothing.

Airmen from the 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron worked day and night to package and load the supplies to get them delivered as quickly as possible.

“This effort helped save lives, by providing humanitarian support through provisions, water, infant formula, and supplies for sanitation, for the benefit of those affected,” said Master Sgt. Diego Zambrano, 332nd ELRS aerial port superintendent. “I was proud and honored to have had the opportunity to contribute to the humanitarian action. The team was made aware of the mission and immediately took the initiative to prepare for the operation.”

ELRS Airmen packed and loaded those items onto HC-130J Combat King II aircraft, flown by crews from the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron to designated evacuation sites. In total, the 332nd ELRS loaded 11 aircraft pallets consisting of more than 31 thousand pounds of cargo.

As evacuations continued, the 26th ERQS also sent two Guardian Angel teams to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, to assist the 379th AEW with security and medical care. Upon arrival, the team increased ambulance transportation capabilities, at times delivering patients-in-need to off-base facilities. They also helped stand up an emergency operations center and medical control center to improve command and control, which helped increase the throughput of patients, allowing treatment of more acute and chronic issues.

Although the exact care varied from what they had been deployed to perform, the medical teams relied on their years of training to get the job done.

“We just knew exactly what we needed to do,” said Maj. Matthew Vargas, 1st Expeditionary Readiness Group flight doctor. “And we got right to work as soon as we landed.”

F-15E Strike Eagles, support equipment and personnel from the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron were also forward deployed to ensure the safety and security of passenger aircraft departing Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. These Strike Eagles were the last manned U.S. military aircraft to depart Afghanistan airspace in support of the NEO.

“Our Airmen have shown time and time again what makes our Air Force the greatest in the world,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Sage, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “Whether we’re executing combat operations or helping airlift necessary supplies to our forces across Southwest Asia, the Red Tails team is ready for any challenge.”

At this time, some 332nd AEW Airmen remain forward deployed, continuing to augment U.S. military facilities in processing the influx of evacuees.