Transport Command Assists Historic Evacuation> US Department of Defense> Department of Defense News

The last few weeks of operations in Afghanistan have been marked by an airlift operation that the Commander of the United States Transportation Command, Army General Stephen R. Lyons, the Commander of the United States Transportation Command, called it “Herculean”.

The last hours were no less Herculean.

Under cover of darkness, the last C-17 carried Acting US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson, who had overseen the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of evacuated Afghans alongside US citizens, and the last US serviceman , Major General Chris Donahue, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division and commander of ground operations in Afghanistan.

“Not long ago, the last American C-17 left Kabul, marking our departure from Afghanistan and the end of the contested phase of this historic operation, the largest non-combatant evacuation operation in the country. story, ”Lyons said. “The United States is the only country capable of rapidly deploying forces and providing non-stop airlift operations on this scale. “

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It was only 17 days earlier that Transcom had moved additional military forces to Afghanistan to secure the airport. Shortly after arriving, Transcom’s air component, Air Mobility Command, placed a large fleet of aircraft in US Central Command and began to fly what would become a historic 24-hour strategic airlift operation. on 24 on three continents.

Airport security: evacuations begin

The Transcom team played a key role in moving forces to Kabul to secure the airport, including an emergency response group specializing in airport operations – air traffic control, runway management, aircraft loading and maintenance – all equipped to operate in a hostile environment.

“From the moment Transcom was ordered to begin deployment, the initial force elements essential to securing HKIA [Hamid Karzai International Airport] took off in less than three hours. We immediately began NEO operations and have continued around the clock for the past 17 days to assist in the safe evacuation of over 120,000 people, ”Lyons said.

I would also like to express my feeling of deep pride in the creative, determined and professional way in which our forces have met the challenges. These incredible accomplishments, this historic airlift, are a testament to the humanity of our troops in this mission and to the skill and professionalism of our US military. ”

Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, Commander, US Transportation Command

Lyons made it clear that the Transcom team was in command of all available resources to complete the mission. Along with US military aircraft, Transcom and support units worked with charter flights organized by other countries and non-governmental organizations.

“My commitment is to ensure that air transport is never the constraint in this operation,” Lyons said in a virtual briefing Aug. 23 at the Pentagon Press Corps. He noted that Transcom was in sync with Centcom and various defense, interagency, coalition and business partners to do whatever the United States could do to get every evacuee out of Kabul as quickly as possible.

Crews transport over 19,000 people to safety in a single day

The early days of the airlift were marked by a perilous rush of Afghans onto the HKIA tarmac and credible reports that Islamic State Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, was threatening to attack US forces. and those who hoped to be airlifted to safety.

In the midst of this chaos, a C-17 with the call sign “Reach 871” left HKIA with 823 Afghans on board. Lyons personally spoke with the crew and shared their gratitude.

“This incredibly dedicated team of Air Force professionals are the best in the world,” said Lyons, referring to those involved in the entire airlift effort.

“The iconic photo of hundreds of Afghans on the ground of a C-17 illustrates the desperation, fear and uncertainty of the Afghan people, but also the ability to save lives and the compassion of our military. These Herculean efforts underscore the United States’ commitment to our Afghan allies and offer them the opportunity for a fresh start, a safer life and a better future, ”Lyons said.

At the height of airlift operations from HKIA, military planes left the airport every 34 minutes and in a single day evacuated more than 19,000 people.

“Plus, this evacuation just couldn’t have happened without the incredible flexibility of the US Transportation Command and the airlift provided by the US Air Force.… No other army in the world has anything like it.”

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commanding officer of Centcom

ISIS-K strikes: Aeromedical launch within the hour

On August 26, suicide bombers, considered ISIS-K fighters, detonated explosives near the Abbey Gate in HKIA. The attack was followed by several armed ISIS men who opened fire on civilians and military forces. There were several casualties at HKIA.

Three US Air Force C-17s carrying aeromedical evacuation teams and intensive care airlift teams were launched from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar . The first of these was launched just minutes after the incident at HKIA. These planes transported both US servicemen and Afghans to medical treatment centers in Ramstein and Al Udeid.

Transcom is responsible for the global patient movement network. The well-established system guaranteed patients life-saving in-flight medical care as they transitioned from initial stabilization care to an MTF that could better meet their needs.

As AE teams removed patients from HKIA, evacuation operations continued.

U.S. trading partners and global allies stand together

Transcom has a long history and a strong partnership with the commercial transportation industry, and no major deployment of US forces occurs without their support. At the start of the operation, the civilian reserve air fleet was activated to ensure that sufficient capacity was available to move evacuees between intermediate locations and to the United States.

As temporary shelters were established by CENTCOM and the US European Command, US commercial air carriers became essential partners in transporting evacuees to 14 intermediate sites across Europe and the Middle East.

Once the State Department began allowing Afghans to travel to the United States, commercial carriers also began transporting to Dulles International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport. Commercial carriers also provide transportation for DIA and PIA evacuees to military installations across the United States.

“I would like to recognize and thank our industry partners who regularly provide an airlift to meet defense needs,” said Lyons, noting that the Department of Defense’s ability to project military forces is inextricably linked. to the commercial industry. “We greatly appreciate the contributions, collaboration and teamwork of our US airlines.”

Commercial and military aircraft from partners and allies around the world assisted in the evacuation of Afghanistan.

“To be clear, this is really a global effort,” Lyons said. “I thank our many coalition partners. We could not succeed without more than two dozen like-minded nations extending our global logistics networks by providing important access and transit hubs.

Transcom ends operations in Afghanistan

With the completion of military operations in Afghanistan, Transcom continues to move evacuees from interim sites to the United States.

“This operation was by far the most difficult problem the company has faced,” said Air Force Major General Corey Martin, director of operations at Transcom. “The scale of the problem, the ambitious deadlines, the number of constraints and the contested environment have combined to present a very unique event. I am very proud of the men and women of the operations management and of Transcom who have successfully taken up this unprecedented challenge. “

The whole company changed missions in a matter of hours. The result was a monumental achievement in air transport: 123,000 people were taken out of harm’s way.

“It’s an incredible number of people who are now safer thanks to the heroism of the young men and women who put their lives on the line every day to evacuate vulnerable Americans and Afghans out of Kabul,” Lyons said.

“… the noblest of deeds.”

“As all of you know, this operation was not without huge sacrifices,” Lyons said in an email to Transcom staff on Aug. 31. “Thirteen of our fellow warriors sacrificed themselves to save others, the noblest of deeds. Solemn obligation, we will always remember and honor their sacrifice by our actions and example.”

As he remembered the dead, Lyons also remembered the veterans who served in Afghanistan and remarked that they “should be incredibly proud of their contributions in defending our nation from those who seek to harm us. wrong”.

“I would also like to express the feeling of deep pride I have in the creative, determined and professional way in which our forces have overcome challenges. These incredible accomplishments, this historic airlift, are a testament to the humanity of our troops in this mission and to the skill and professionalism of our US military, ”said Lyons.

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