AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
On Aug. 14, the first C-17 Globemaster III full of evacuees took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The base quickly became the primary transit hub for evacuees flowing out of Afghanistan.
Over the next 17 days, the number of evacuees that arrived at AUAB grew from 800 to over 57,000, with as many as 17,000 evacuees being cared for at a single time as they prepared for transit onward.
The driving forces for the base to succeed in meeting the challenge were a standard of excellence, innovative tactics driving adaptability, and the partnership with the host nation.
“Through teamwork with Qatar, coalition partners, allies and the interagency support of military members from across the Central Command Area of Responsibility, the whole team at AUAB rose to the challenge and continues to do what is asked of them,” said Brig. Gen. Gerald Donohue, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “Not only did we rise to the occasion for this challenge, but in the midst of it all, we continued to generate the necessary combat air power that is required in our area of responsibility.”
The Afghanistan evacuation is the largest airlift of persons in Air Force history. When it began, Al Udeid AB was not intended to become a temporary safe haven for massive numbers of evacuees.
Responding to passenger inflow required every available bed space, and when that was not sufficient, to rapidly convert several facilities into habitable locations for evacuees to be cared for while awaiting follow-on transit.
“The immense demand required constant, deliberate innovation on the part of all members here at Al Udeid,” said Donohue. “Everything we built here was entirely crafted or re-purposed. We used facilities and resources in ways they were never designed to, in order to maximize the capacity and increase comfort for our guests, who in many cases have lost everything.
“We have grown into a truly joint, interagency, intergovernmental coalition of forces that have banded together to accomplish the task at hand,” said Donohue. “It truly would not have been possible without them.”
Many outside agencies sent personnel to the installation to provide assistance where needed. U.S. Army Battalions, Marines, Chaplains and Mental Health technicians, doctors, engineers and members of the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, as well as other countries all joined together.
Al Udeid Air Base remains focused on facilitating the onward movement of U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan as quickly and safely as possible.
“It is a testament to the spirit, character and heart of every member of this coalition team we’ve assembled, that throughout three weeks of unimaginable challenge, they rose to the occasion to meet the needs of this vulnerable population,” said Donohue. “We never stopped improving, striving, and caring.”