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Afghanistan evac operation: Airmen experiences

"It's been a lot of hard work helping these people, but it's been rewarding all at the same time and makes me grateful for the life I have back home. Being able to put fuel on the planes that are transporting these people from a bad situation is nothing I expected when I came here for this deployment. We are making history here and all of us are working so hard to give these people better lives. It's an amazing feeling to be apart of something so much bigger than myself," said Airman 1st Class Jasmine Shoemaker, 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator.

"It's been a lot of hard work helping these people, but it's been rewarding all at the same time and makes me grateful for the life I have back home. Being able to put fuel on the planes that are transporting these people from a bad situation is nothing I expected when I came here for this deployment. We are making history here and all of us are working so hard to give these people better lives. It's an amazing feeling to be apart of something so much bigger than myself," said Airman 1st Class Jasmine Shoemaker, 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator. Shoemaker's home station is Travis Air Force Base, California with the 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

"Helping these people is one of the most important missions the Army can have. Seeing the families in desperate need makes me think of my own daughters and it gives me hope that these people are going to get a new start in a free society where they can be themselves. The willingness of the other evacuees to help each other and help us shows that the truest light can exist in the darkest of times. I saw evacuees allow four other evacuees who were going through chemotherapy take their spot. These people look up to us and are inspired by us, but I don’t know if they realize how inspiring they are themselves," said SSG Martin Jonathan, United States Army mortar section leader. Jonathan is based out of Fort Polk, Louisiana with the 3/10 2-4 infantry Charlie Company.

"Helping these people is one of the most important missions the Army can have. Seeing the families in desperate need makes me think of my own daughters and it gives me hope that these people are going to get a new start in a free society where they can be themselves. The willingness of the other evacuees to help each other and help us shows that the truest light can exist in the darkest of times. I saw evacuees allow four other evacuees who were going through chemotherapy take their spot. These people look up to us and are inspired by us, but I don’t know if they realize how inspiring they are themselves," said SSG Martin Jonathan, United States Army mortar section leader. Jonathan is based out of Fort Polk, Louisiana with the 3/10 2-4 infantry Charlie Company. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

"Hands down the most fulfilling experience I've had in my entire life is helping these people out of Afghanistan. We all miss our families back home, but helping the evacuees is a part of something bigger than ourselves. Seeing small children in need of food and water and people who want to flee their country so bad that they are willing to risk their lives...it's truly humbling," said Senior Airmen Brett Rosa, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron response force leader. Rosa's home station is Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada with the 99th Security Forces Squadron.

"Hands down the most fulfilling experience I've had in my entire life is helping these people out of Afghanistan. We all miss our families back home, but helping the evacuees is a part of something bigger than ourselves. Seeing small children in need of food and water and people who want to flee their country so bad that they are willing to risk their lives...it's truly humbling," said Senior Airmen Brett Rosa, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron response force leader. Rosa's home station is Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada with the 99th Security Forces Squadron. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

“Our priority is to avert suffering and save lives. Some of the people we’re helping evacuate Afghanistan and get to America and beyond are getting a chance for a new life. In the throngs of people flowing, there are future doctors, leaders and entrepreneurs that will make the world a better place. As a new father, seeing the children getting that chance is an insurmountable feeling,” said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Elders, U.S. Marine Corps J3/5 Defense Security Cooperation Management Office-Afghanistan deputy.

“Our priority is to avert suffering and save lives. Some of the people we’re helping evacuate Afghanistan and get to America and beyond are getting a chance for a new life. In the throngs of people flowing, there are future doctors, leaders and entrepreneurs that will make the world a better place. As a new father, seeing the children getting that chance is an insurmountable feeling,” said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Elders, U.S. Marine Corps J3/5 Defense Security Cooperation Management Office-Afghanistan deputy. Elders’ home station is Camp Pendleton, California with the l Marine Expeditionary Force. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

"When I see refugees and children coming here after they have left everything they know, I am in awe of the confidence they have to put their lives in our hands and trust that they will be safe and taken care of, and we are doing just that. This is what I signed up to do. This is what the Air Force trained me to do. I am happy that I can help and use my skills in a situation like this," said Staff Sgt. Abigail Swanson, 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron medical technician.

"When I see refugees and children coming here after they have left everything they know, I am in awe of the confidence they have to put their lives in our hands and trust that they will be safe and taken care of, and we are doing just that. This is what I signed up to do. This is what the Air Force trained me to do. I am happy that I can help and use my skills in a situation like this," said Staff Sgt. Abigail Swanson, 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron medical technician. Swanson is a member of the North Dakota Air National Guard with the 119th Medical Group. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

"I always saw humanitarian crises happening on the news from all over the world and never thought I would find myself a part of one of them. Helping reunite separated family members has changed my perspective on life. Connecting on an individual level and empathizing with people who are so grateful for any help is something I will never forget. Everyone around the base has converged to make sure we can provide our best comforts to get everyone to safety, and I am proud to be amongst these amazing Airmen in the greatest Air Force the world has ever seen," said Staff Sgt. Alec Lamposona, 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron computer systems administrator.

"I always saw humanitarian crises happening on the news from all over the world and never thought I would find myself a part of one of them. Helping reunite separated family members has changed my perspective on life. Connecting on an individual level and empathizing with people who are so grateful for any help is something I will never forget. Everyone around the base has converged to make sure we can provide our best comforts to get everyone to safety, and I am proud to be amongst these amazing Airmen in the greatest Air Force the world has ever seen," said Staff Sgt. Alec Lamposona, 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron computer systems administrator. Lamposona's home station is Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska with the 55th Communications Squadron. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

“This opportunity has allowed me to serve for the greater good and has meant the world to me. Everyone deserves a chance to live a peaceful life. To see everyone band together to make this happen is nothing short of extraordinary, and exemplifies the Air Force’s core values: Integrity first, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do. One thing that has stuck with me throughout this effort to evacuate Afghanistan, are all the kids smiling and playing, knowing they have a better life ahead of them," said Airman 1st Class Jose Antonio Cruz, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron response force member.

“This opportunity has allowed me to serve for the greater good and has meant the world to me. Everyone deserves a chance to live a peaceful life. To see everyone band together to make this happen is nothing short of extraordinary, and exemplifies the Air Force’s core values: Integrity first, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do. One thing that has stuck with me throughout this effort to evacuate Afghanistan, are all the kids smiling and playing, knowing they have a better life ahead of them," said Airman 1st Class Jose Antonio Cruz, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron response force member. Cruz’s home station is Lakenheath Air Base, England with the 48th Security Forces Squadron. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 23, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kylie Barrow)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

“I never thought I would be a part of history. I've only been here for two weeks. Our job as PAX reps is to get every evacuee manifested and wait for an aircraft to come down that can fit them on and take them to their location. We've been able to move thousands of people in the shortest time we've ever done before. It's been a lot of work but we've had help from a lot of people, allowing it to be a more streamlined process. I'm happy to get the evacuees to a new home, and I want to get them safe. We're trying to do everything we can to get them out. When I see that aircraft take-off full of people, I feel a lot better,” said Airman 1st Class Luke Miller, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

"I just imagine if I were in their situation, how would l want to be treated? How would my Mom want to be treated? My shop is out here supporting this mission, we volunteered as a unit. We have reprioritized everything except the essential things, to be here and support where we can. It's rewarding and exhausting, but it makes me thankful for what I have, and hearing their stories makes me want to do anything that I can. One day I was playing catch with a little girl, and while we were playing, she wanted to show me something. She pulled up her sleeve and showed me a large scar that took up most of her arm. She told me her school had been bombed. It was heartbreaking. There are so many other stories. I just think if I were ever in this situation with my daughter, I would want someone to take time out and listen to me. I would want someone to be kind to me. My Mom was a refugee back in Vietnam- Vietcong. Growing up and hearing her stories of living her childhood in prison with my Grandfather, is a big part of why I am here every day, through the exhaustion, frustration, and heartbreak. I want to be here. I’m happy to be here," said Staff Sgt. Xena Hoye, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“I just hit my year mark while being deployed out in Al Udeid. This mission and being a part of it is exactly why I joined. I help with supplies and make sure there are enough. I'll clean the bathroom if it needs to be done. I'm an all-around helper. I've been here since day one [of the evacuation]. One gentleman I spoke to said he hadn't slept for three days and said this is some of the best sleep he's ever gotten. I'm just happy that I can guarantee safety for him, and that he knows he can close his eyes and know his family will be alright so that he doesn't have to wake up in the middle of the night and start running. I am proud that I'm a part of everyone else working together to make this mission happen. When people talk about it, I can say that I was there and I was helping out. When they talk about what this group did and the impact it made, I can say I was a part of the group,” said Airman 1st Class Micheal Robinson, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 21, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“I do my 12-hour shift at my traditional job as well as a 12-hour shift volunteering here, alternating between the two. I am happy to be here, honestly, seeing firsthand how much these people have lost and being able to help them. It opens your eyes. You get to see just how much there really is to lose. They are coming here trying to run away from all of it, and they ran away with so little. It does get me a little bit emotional. It's sad to see the position they are in. I’m grateful to be able to contribute by helping hand out supplies, helping with crowd control. Everything about this operation has made such an impact on me.” – Senior Airman John Smith 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 21, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“My faith tells me to care, and that is why I am here every day because I care for these people and their situation. When you’re suddenly faced with scared, hungry people who just have the clothes on their back, it gives everything a whole new perspective. People came out of the woodwork to help in any way they can. People, here and stateside, have been pouring in to see how they support and how they can donate. This is just another example of how Americans come together in a crisis. It’s been a lot to process, but what’s kept me going is watching our Airmen. To see them give up their personal time, their money, their time off, even the clothes out of their closet because they want to help. Watching that there’s a reason why we’re the greatest Air Force in the world: it’s because of our Airmen.” – Chaplain (Capt.) Travis Ferguson, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 22, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 21, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“It is so humbling. Four months ago when I arrived here, I never thought I would be doing this. We all have dedicated jobs, and my job is driving the evacuees from the processing center to the aircraft that will take them to their next destination. Being able to help everyone, seeing how it all operates and being a direct link, I really don’t know how else to describe it but humbling. We’ve been able to touch so many lives and been able to help so many people go on to bigger and better futures. We’re going on day six of 14-hour shifts, and it’s worth it. To be a part of any aspect of the operations has been very humbling for me. It really shows you what’s going on in the world.” – Senior Airman Bradley Scott Murphy, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 21, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 19, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“I’m glad to be here, this is why I joined and I am even looking at extending - but it’s very emotional. We’re seeing kids as young as 15 days old come in that are still nursing. Being a woman and seeing other women in these conditions, trying to take care of their children, it’s tough. There is one child [by himself] who is deaf and obviously doesn’t speak English. The state department is trying to help us mitigate these issues and link them up with their parents. We’re trying to get these kids fed and taken care of and be a voice for them.” – Senior Airman Rachel Akau, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 19, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Noah D. Coger)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 19, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“There are a lot of women and kids here and it’s hard knowing what they’ve been through, especially knowing that we will never experience what they have, ourselves. The best we can do is help them through this time and provide what we can. Our shifts are long; I don’t think I’ve worked less than a 12-hour shift but for me this has been very humbling. Living in the U.S., we have a lot of privileges; coming here, you see these people that have only their clothes on their backs and for myself I want to help where I can.” – Airmen 1st Class Konner Meadors, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 19, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah D. Coger)

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 19, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
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“I became a doctor because I wanted to help people, but this is a far different experience than anything I have been practicing over many years. I saw a child yesterday and he was saying he had a headache but in talking to him, I discovered he was an orphan. He came here by himself and spent the last two days travelling without any family. So, I put him aside and got the help of the State Department. Since then I’ve taken on the role of providing for these children and have actually used my phone to contact their families so at least their parents know they are O.K. and safe. What we are really doing aside from basic medical care is really providing a sense of psychological safety for these people because they have a lot of anxieties right now. They don’t understand what’s going to happen next and we’re doing our best to try and help them with the resources that we have available.” – Lt. Col. Paul Mariani, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 19, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah D. Coger)

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --

Service members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as other supporting agencies are working 24/7 to support ongoing evacuation operations out of Afghanistan Aug. 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As part of the operation, thousands of qualified evacuees continue to arrive here from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on board multiple military aircraft. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan.