RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The sounds of children laughing, playing volleyball as they try to best their adult opponents. This was the scene at Ramstein Air Base, Germany on September 30, 2021.
The Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, and they deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 25, to support Operation Allies Welcome as security augmentation.
About 175 Soldiers replaced 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade who initially assumed the supporting task of Operation Allies Refuge on Sept. 2.
“They have a huge sense of pride being able to be a part of this mission,” said Capt. Micah Thompson, the commander for Alpha Battery, 1-77 FAR. “Being able to have their part in making someone else’s life better is an opportunity that they don’t normally get, and I think they value it a lot.”
The Soldiers conduct security both outside and inside the living areas to ensure the evacuees are given a sense of safety and security in their living areas. In addition to their security tasks are also supporting vaccination operations and other tasks to mission essential tasks; however, the Soldiers also find time to make the evacuees feel welcome in other ways. The Soldiers take any opportunity they can to play with the Afghan children.
“So, I took about five hours out of my day braiding all the girls’ hair. Because every girl deserves to get their hair braided. I was just in their tent braiding their hair, and they loved it. They were so happy,” said Spc. Sophia Harmelink, a 13M Multiple Launch Rocket System Crewmember assigned to 1-77 FAR supporting OAW. “I think it’s a really awesome, once in a lifetime experience.”
Sgt. 1st Class Brooks Robinson, a platoon sergeant in 1-77 FAR and an Afghanistan veteran, spent a lot of time playing with the children. They smiled and laughed as they hung off of his uniform while he carried them around and playfully tossed them in air.
“For our daily mission we usually get out there, get people in place, I’ll go around and check on security,” Robinson said. “Once everybody is set, I’m able to go interact with our Soldiers and the Afghan Travelers. From being deployed in the Middle East to coming here, you’re able to see it come full circle. We need to take care of them because they were the ones who were able to help us. We owe it to them, and to our Soldiers to help them.”
For now, the Soldiers will continue to support Operation Allies Welcome until the mission is complete, or they are relieved of their duty. Either way, the Soldiers are proud to serve and participate in the mission.
“To be able to come out and ease that transition as [the Afghan Travelers] integrate into American Society, to be a part of that means a lot,” said Thompson. “I hope they look back and feel like they have been respected, and that they have a positive outlook on the future.”