CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – As citizens around the globe watched events unfold in recent weeks in Afghanistan, approximately 50 Airmen from the Washington Air National Guard departed Aug. 28 to provide essential support to vulnerable Afghans as part of Operation Allies Welcome at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
The Department of Defense recently approved a request for assistance from the State Department to provide temporary housing, sustainment, and support inside the United States for vulnerable Afghans at military installations around the country. JBMDL is one of the locations where servicemembers are providing this support.
According to Lt. Col. Lisa Weaver, Air Component Coordination Element for the Washington National Guard, the WNG received urgent requests for OAW volunteers through the Joint Information Exchange Environment, the National Guard Bureau’s web-based, interagency mission coordination and situational awareness system. The request then went out to the units with a short suspense.
Due to Airmen being heavily tasked since March 2020 with COVID-19 operations, civil disturbance missions and wildland firefighting support, just to name a few, the speed and size of the response was unexpected. But in hindsight it all made sense to Weaver.
“We have so many people who have been connected to Afghanistan the last 20 years and want to help in any way they can,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference in a situation where it really is necessary: working directly with displaced nationals, helping them settle, and keeping them safe.”
The more than 50 Airmen who volunteered belong to all the units of the WA ANG: the Headquarters Washington Air National Guard and 194th Wing at Camp Murray, 141st Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, and Western Air Defense Sector at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The group is a blend of ranks, career fields and part time and full time guardsmen.
With a majority of the WA ANG contingent designated as general augmentees, they will help the JBMDL task force provide housing, medical, logistics, and transportation support. The WA ANG also deployed security forces and transportation Airmen to provide career field-related support.
Senior Airman Sarah Godfrey, a material management specialist with the 194th Logistics Readiness Squadron, is an Airman who has been on back-to-back missions. According to her, she volunteered again because she’s thriving, and also, it goes back to why she joined the WA ANG in the first place.
“The (whole) reason I joined the guard was to assist with any kind of state side mission or mission in general (that) contributes to the community,” she said. “I just want to at least comfort refugees coming in and help in any way I possibly can.”
During an in-processing event for departing Airmen at Camp Murray, Washington, on Aug. 27 the state's adjutant general, Army Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, addressed the group and talked about the historic nature of OAW.
“You are about to play a part in what very well could be the last chapter in 20 years of war in Afghanistan. While the previous chapters have all been full of death and destruction, this last chapter could be really really positive,” he said. “You’re going to have an impact on our country for generations. Typically people who come to America have a pretty rough go of things that first generation but their kids and grandkids make major contributions to our country. So the work you are going to do here is going to set the stage for major contributions for generations and not everyone gets to do that.”