FORT LEE, Va. – Members of Task Force Eagle were brought together for a final time to take part in a farewell ceremony hosted by Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, in Larkin Hall on Dec. 13. Task Force-Eagle alumni joined in person and virtually. The event concluded with awards presentations. More than 3,000 Afghan people were temporarily housed on Fort Lee as part of Operation Allies Welcome. (U.S. Army Photo by Alyssa Crockett)
FORT LEE, Va. – Members of Task Force Eagle were brought together for a final time to take part in a farewell ceremony hosted by Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, in Larkin Hall on Dec. 13. Task Force-Eagle alumni joined in person and virtually. The event concluded with awards presentations. More than 3,000 Afghan people were temporarily housed on Fort Lee as part of Operation Allies Welcome. (U.S. Army Photo by Alyssa Crockett) (Photo Credit: Alyssa Crockett) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – Members of Task Force Eagle were brought together to reflect on the successes of Operation Allies Welcome during a U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command-hosted “farewell ceremony” Dec. 13 in Fort Lee’s Larkin Hall.

Guests of honor included Lt. Gen. John R. Evans, U.S. Army North commanding general; and Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, who led the task force as the CASCOM and Fort Lee CG. Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center CG sent his gratitude via video. An estimated (##) individuals participated virtually and in-person.

The interagency task force consisted of over 500 DOD Civilians, military personnel, and representatives of the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Agency of International Development and non-governmental organizations. The first members arrived shortly after announcement of the mission in late July and the work of TFE concluded in mid-November.

Fort Lee was the first of eight installations selected to provide temporary lodging and other living needs for the Afghan evacuees. The mission of Operation Allies Welcome (which began as Operation Allies Refuge) was to support vulnerable Afghans and their families while they finished processing with immigration services, applied for work authorization and underwent any necessary medical care prior to resettlement in the U.S.

“[Your team] wrote the book for success in this [mission],” said Evans, who was participating virtually. “You set the stage. You broke new ground. You established standard operating procedures. You fought very difficult problems, and at the end of the day, you were able to apply the incredible diversity of talent you had available. You succeeded in every step.”

Martin’s video opened with a “shout-out” to CASCOM and Team Lee for the great work they did with Operation Allies Welcome and Task Force Eagle.

“When the nation called, you were there,” he said. “That first step [Afghan evacuees] took onto American soil was facilitated by the great work that you did. We showed agility, compassion and what good, hard work does. The United States Army can accomplish any mission they are given.”

During the ceremony, Simerly highlighted that more than 42,000 Afghans arrived at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., and over 3,000 of them were temporarily housed on Fort Lee.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime mission; and I’d add to that, a life-changing mission,” Simerly observed. “[It was] life-changing for our Afghan guests who you all ensured were treated graciously. … We all benefited from the opportunity to help these people, and every one of you took advantage of that opportunity.”

CASCOM’s senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge C. Escobedo, talked about how this mission has the potential to strengthen the U.S. as a whole.

“The reason we continue to be the best nation in the world is because we are a melting pot. We bring personnel from other places, [and] that make this nation even better” Escobedo expressed. “Be proud of [yourselves]. You made history, and you made our nation even stronger,”

Simerly gave a shout-out to all the teams involved with the OAW mission during the awards portion of the ceremony. Among them is the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, IHG Army Lodging, the Installation Operations Center, the Joint Visitors Bureau, the Religious Support Office chaplains, the CASCOM G3, G6 and G8 departments, and the garrison. Numerous other support agencies also contributed to the success of the OAW mission here.

In the final moments of the ceremony, Simerly awarded certificates of appreciation to Michelle Lalor and Jesslyn Carey for volunteering to lead the effort to collect, organize and store donations received from the local community so they could be distributed by non-governmental organizations.

“[It was a volunteer effort] that involved a lot of hours, a lot of days of work, and an enormous amount of caring,” Simerly acknowledged.

For more information on Operation Allies Welcome, visit www.dhs.gov/allieswelcome.

CASCOM is a major subordinate command of U.S. Army TRADOC. It provides training and education for Sustainment professionals, both military and DA Civilian, at all leadership levels. It develops and implements capabilities, concepts and doctrine, and executes functional proponency to enable the Army’s Sustainment Warfighting Function.

For more information about the command, visit cascom.army.mil or www.facebook.com/USACASCOM.