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Team Hill supports Operation Allies Welcome

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Taylor Ferry, 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --When the request came to assist Afghan evacuees in early September of this year, 10 Hill Airmen answered the call.

With short notice, they were on a plane headed to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to support Operation Allies Welcome with Task Force Liberty.

“I was really excited to be a part of something this big and to help make the Afghans' transition to American life possible,” said Airman 1st Class Kelsey Davis, a 75th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst.

Their mission was to support the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State in executing the temporary provision of medical screening, transportation, lodging, and general support for Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other Afghan personnel.

While at Liberty Village, the name for the temporary home on the New Jersey base for Afghan evacuees, the Team Hill Airmen fell in wherever support was needed. They filled roles in donation logistics, public safety, commander’s support staff, public affairs, cultural unity team members, and ground transportation maintenance.

“I was in charge of the sections responsible for the distribution of all the belongings that the Afghans have while here: clothes, shoes, strollers, consumables, diapers. My team has given out tens of thousands of items to our Afghan guests,” said 1st Lt. Zachary Harrell, a 649th Munitions Squadron systems flight commander. “My entire day revolved around the Afghans’ safety, security, and care.”

After the long journey from Afghanistan to the United States, the Afghan guests are greeted by service members from bases across the country to provide a safe, comfortable, and culturally appropriate environment to complete their citizenship process.

“As a member of the Cultural Assessment and Advisory Team, I worked with the Afghan guests to educate them on American laws and culture to better prepare for life outside of Liberty Village,” said Capt. Kurt Mann, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center project manager at Hill AFB. “We also function as a bridge between our Afghan guests and U.S. Airmen, focusing on education and cultural immersion so we can better support our guests and their transition to U.S. citizenship.”

Senior Airman Jayauna Tyler, a 75th Operation Support Squadron aviation resource manager, used her skills in personnel management to ensure the manpower for Task Force Liberty was always maintained.

“Placing manpower where it’s needed takes a lot more than just putting Airmen on a team,” said Tyler. “We had to keep track of where everyone was assigned, and when you are doing that for the number of service members supporting the task force, it becomes a lot of work.”

The mission was especially impactful for Airmen who had deployed to Afghanistan previously in their careers. The mission allowed them to make the Afghans they had served with feel at home in a new country.

“I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, and it was an eye-opening experience. When it came time to give back to those that helped us out there, it was a no-brainer to me,” said 2nd Lt. Graeme Clark, an AFLCMC project manager at Hill AFB. “We needed to act and act fast.”

Despite the hard work and long hours, many Team Hill Airmen enjoyed participating in this vital mission and said they would miss being part of it.

“It’s bittersweet to be heading home. I feel that Team Hill made a difference, and it’s going to be difficult going back to the everyday mission when we know the mission here is still going strong,” said Clark. “I know we’ve left it in good hands though, and that’s reassuring.”

As the Hill Airmen are relieved at the task force and head back to home station, they express gratitude for the opportunity to have served the Afghans.

“The deployment to Task Force Liberty has been a highlight of my career, something I will be able to share with family, co-workers, and generations down the road,” said Mann. “This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that thousands of our guests will never forget.”

Afghan evacuee support by Task Force Liberty is part of a larger effort that includes locations in multiple states. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening, and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible.