BUCKLEY SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Following the evacuation of over 60,000 Afghan refugees, members attached to Buckley Space Force Base and Space Delta 4 are working tirelessly to provide a magnitude of humanitarian efforts in support of Operation Allies Refuge.
As the gravity of what was occurring became clearer, volunteers stepped up. The Air Force’s core value of “service before self” is continually demonstrated through the character and dedication of its members. Throughout the summer of 2021, multiple teams took charge of different projects for the operation.
Although the majority of members are from a communications unit with DEL 4, their involvement spanned everything from installing electrical systems and creating websites that further support the cause to providing relief support such as building tents, preparing food, distributing clothes and supplies to refugees.
“Our nation called on us to save another nation, and we answered without hesitation,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Levi Owen, the Civil Engineer Operations flight chief. “The team took the impossible and made it reality providing a future to those who did not have one. I am proud to be a part of this humanitarian effort and this team. We have done what would most likely be considered impossible in most cases.
“As for me I just hope that I can follow in the footsteps of the heroes who came before me,” added Owen. “There have been many great military humanitarian efforts throughout history; I am just glad that when it was my turn to follow those heroes’ footsteps, I was able to do my part.”
Owen and a team of 20 others served as boots on the ground and set up tents to run a power source for Operations Allies Refuge. After establishing the framework for the power grid, they found the needs were constantly evolving and remained flexible, often finding quick solutions. When power went out because the influx had exceeded base infrastructure capabilities, people were exposed to the elements and subsequently a halt in processing was caused. Their team adapted and set up secondary power to get families safely into comfortable shelter.
“Our job was infrastructure,” said Owen. “Living space, power and utilities. Everything we could set up as fast as we could to give some form of humanity and compassion back to a people that just lost it all.”
Another large part of the operation has been sorting through the countless donations they receive. With mass media coverage, many people at home were trying to do whatever they could to support the operation and dealing with the logistics of their donations was falling on the deployed members.
U.S. Space Force Sgt. Cayden Reynolds, a DEL 4 Detachment 1 crew chief, created a donation website in less than a day to allow all requests and notifications for this operation to be received in one location. Reynolds noticed volunteers and people wanting to donate had to go to multiple sites and locations to get information on how to help, which caused confusion and unneeded delays in care, so he decided to make one consolidated site. Not only did this help the refugees, but it also eased the stress for First Sergeants receiving requests for support.
“I had no idea the impact of what I had done until a few days later,” said Reynolds. “It ended up becoming one of the center points for the First Sergeants to direct people towards.”
USSF Sgt. Benjamin Kremer, a DEL 4 Det 1 crew chief, was one of the members involved with processing the donations. Their section would process hundreds pounds of clothes on their days off.
Another group who contributed to the effort is the Ramstein Enlisted Spouses’ Association, which coordinated supply drops for teams who have been working relentlessly. Along with the supply donations, many have been stepping away from their regular duties to cook food for hundreds of people at a time. To date, they have supported over 30 units and work centers, fed over 2,200 people continuously and served over 6,000 meals.
“While everyone was focused on making sure the evacuees had a smooth and successful transition, nobody was focused on their own health and wellbeing,” said Aimee Beck, key spouse and president of the Ramstein Enlisted Spouse’s Association. “Members would want to work extra hours to get the mission completed, but would run out of time to eat dinner, or would be on the flightline their entire shift and not have the energy to prepare food to have on hand.”
Although many did not meet face-to-face, they knew their contributions had an impact on the evacuation efforts. It also gave them a true sense of humility to see what others were enduring, said USAF Airman 1st Class James Fisher, a DEL 4 Det 1 satellite communication technician.
Proximity to the evacuation efforts also invoked a lot of emotion.
“It brings me back to my first feelings when this operation kicked off,” said USAF Force Tech. Sgt. Stephen Beck, NCO in charge of SATCOM operations. “Every time I start to feel dragged down from my part in this, and maybe even feel that I am not affecting the mission because I am too many steps away from the ‘front line,’ I realize that every little bit helps. Knowing that the Airmen who are maintaining the aircraft moving evacuees out of their situation don’t have to worry, meaning everyone is a little safer brings me joy.
“I feel humanitarian aid missions are the most selfless and the overall best use of the resources of the United States military,” added Beck. “This mission and these feelings are what it means to be an American and is the reason I joined the United States Air Force.”
Their continued support has made a huge impact in the lives of not only the Afghans, but also the service members.
“From sorting clothes to getting my hands dirty, I was just in awe of the determination and overall kindness of everyone,” said Kremer. “I was grateful to be able to help alongside Airman, Guardians, Soldiers, and civilians. I believe we are trying to do our best to help the Afghanistan people to start over on the right foot.”
There have been countless other contributions and service members not mentioned. A special shout out to: Tech. Sgt. Richard Tucker, Staff Sgt. Thomas Latham, Senior Airman Seth Blackburn, Senior Airman Jacob Dewitt, and Spc. 4 Tyler Bisard. Additionally, Maj. Luke Basham, Capt. Peter Lennarson, 1st Lt. Jacob Mullinax, Master Sgt. Thomas Lynch, Master Sgt. Greg Mecsko, and Master Sgt. Karl Musick, who are the current leadership team.
For anyone who would like to assist this operation, please visit alliesrefuge.org.