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The 7th Reconnaissance Squadron quickly pivots to aid Operation Allies Refuge

  • Published
  • By 1st. Lt. Brandon Shapiro
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing

As the world watched the United States race to meet the Aug. 31, 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline, in the background was one of the most complex logistical undertakings in U.S. Air Force history.

In the middle of those efforts was U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, which became a main staging base to temporarily house thousands of evacuees.

More than 150 personnel from the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron quickly converted an operational aircraft hangar into an evacuee processing center.

“Once the evacuees arrived, Airmen helped with almost every aspect of the receiving process,” said Lt. Col David Hind, 7 RS commander, who oversaw their effort. “They were in charge of tracking, sheltering, sustainment, and onward movement of at-risk U.S. and Afghan civilians, and other prospective special Immigrant visa applicants during the emergency evacuation.”

All said and done, the Airmen of the 7 RS aided more than 4,200 individuals; their coordination with the U.S. Department of State mission and personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines contributed to the overall evacuation and reestablishment of nearly 124,000 U.S. citizens by the United States.

“As a father it was almost impossible to not be emotional watching the families of the evacuees departing the C-17s (Globemaster III Aircraft),” Reminisced Hind, after watching the hundreds of small children arrive. “It was incredibly sad, but at the same time, the smiles on their faces gave me hope and pride in what we were doing. Our team and our Air Force are changing lives in ways that we will probably never know.”