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Forging futures: AUAB and Qatar relocate Afghanistan evacuees

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kylie Barrow
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Host Nation Coordination Cell at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, is the link between Department of Defense personnel and Qatari officials. During the evacuation of Afghanistan, HNCC and their Qatari counterparts were in charge of the final step in moving qualified evacuees onward to further destinations. The support from Qatar was critical to the U.S. military’s efforts in evacuating Afghanistan.

“When I arrived here, the relationship with the Qataris and the Americans was strong, it’s always been strong,” said Col. Alfredo Laboy, 379th HNCC director. “However, the support provided during the evacuations has taken our relationship to another level.”

The HNCC oversees the Ministry of Interior, or Qatari immigration process, at the combined customs and immigration center, which played a critical role for Afghanistan evacuation operations at Al Udeid AB. Approximately 58,000 evacuees processed through the center, as everyone who left the installation had to go through the immigration process.

“Together, we figured out ways to expedite paperwork and make the process easier so we could keep passengers coming through,” said Laboy. “We couldn’t do that on our own, and our Qatari counterparts understood. They even waived some of their requirements because they understand what went on here. That is the level of support we received.”

According to Laboy, the service members at Al Udeid AB and their Qatari counterparts pulled off what he calls a miracle. In his nearly 30-year career, including service through 9/11 and resulting tours to Afghanistan, this mission was one of his most impactful.

“I will never forget those days [following 9/11], but I will never ever forget what has occurred here,” said Laboy. “Every single person that was here was meant to be here. It’s because of them that we were successful… this [Afghanistan evacuation] was on another level. We actually saved lives here, the humanitarian aspect brought the best out of everyone. It’s inspiring… I am at a loss for words.”