Capt. Emily Copple, 23rd Modular Ordnance Ammunition Company Commander, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, leads the Operation Allies Welcome Female Engagement Team made up of Soldiers from the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade and 39th Transportation Battalion, 21st Theater Sustainment Command on Sept. 14, 2021,  at Rhine Ordnance Barracks and Ramstein Air Force Base. The FET ensures a female Soldier presence at the temporary housing facilities for Afghan travelers at all times, helping to bridge cultural gaps and provide a supportive environment for men and women.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Capt. Emily Copple, 23rd Modular Ordnance Ammunition Company Commander, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, leads the Operation Allies Welcome Female Engagement Team made up of Soldiers from the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade and 39th Transportation Battalion, 21st Theater Sustainment Command on Sept. 14, 2021, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks and Ramstein Air Force Base. The FET ensures a female Soldier presence at the temporary housing facilities for Afghan travelers at all times, helping to bridge cultural gaps and provide a supportive environment for men and women. (Photo Credit: Spc. Elliott Page) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers from 21st Theater Sustainment Command provide security and assistance to Afghan evacuees at the transit area known as pod 51 on Sept. 9, 2021, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The transit center provides a safe place for the evacuees to complete their paperwork while security screenings and background checks are conducted before they continue on to their final destination.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers from 21st Theater Sustainment Command provide security and assistance to Afghan evacuees at the transit area known as pod 51 on Sept. 9, 2021, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The transit center provides a safe place for the evacuees to complete their paperwork while security screenings and background checks are conducted before they continue on to their final destination. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Duncan) VIEW ORIGINAL
Afghan evacuees receive the Measles vaccine from 30th Medical Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command personnel on Sept. 18, 2021, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Germany.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Afghan evacuees receive the Measles vaccine from 30th Medical Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command personnel on Sept. 18, 2021, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Germany. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Duncan) VIEW ORIGINAL
Volunteers and 21st Theater Sustainment Command Soldiers from the Kaiserslautern community give Afghan evacuees cold weather clothing items on Sept. 22, 2021, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks. The clothing came from donations from the local community.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Volunteers and 21st Theater Sustainment Command Soldiers from the Kaiserslautern community give Afghan evacuees cold weather clothing items on Sept. 22, 2021, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks. The clothing came from donations from the local community. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Duncan) VIEW ORIGINAL

In August 2021, as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan collapsed amid a blistering Taliban offensive, thousands of Americans and allies saw imminent danger in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Numerous amounts of people flocked to Kabul to board U.S. evacuation flights and flee imminent danger. What ensued was Operation Allies Welcome, the largest non-combatant evacuation operation in history. To facilitate the evacuation, Ramstein Airbase (RAB) in Germany served as an Air Force-administered intermediate staging base to provide life support to evacuees. However, a high rate of inbound travelers and capacity restrictions at final destinations in the United States forced the Army’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) to expand holding capacity and ensure the speediest route to safety.

Headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, the 21st TSC established the Army’s complex on Rhine Ordnance Barracks (ROB), close to RAB. The unit selected to mission command the Task Force Home operation was the 39th Transportation Battalion (39th MCB). Task Force Home grew to a holding capacity of more than 8,000 evacuees and would support more than 12,000 evacuees by the mission’s end. To accommodate different populations, the area of operations would consist of seven distinct life support areas (LSAs), providing comprehensive life support functions, one being a large, centralized facility with hardstand buildings called the Deployment Processing Center (DPC) and the others as temporary camps. The following is a recounting of 39th MCB’s sustainment efforts to operate Task Force Home through exercising its mission essential tasks and providing non-standard sustainment support.

The 39th MCB’s mission essential task list (METL) includes establishing movement control operations, managing assigned and attached units providing transportation support, conducting expeditionary deployment operations at the battalion level, directing establishment of subordinate units and headquarters units, and conducting actions associated with area defense. The unit performed these functions by assuming mission command of the Army’s operation by establishing a tactical operations command, establishing a unit area with Tactical Control (TACON) infantry and military police providing security, and leveraging organic and TACON logistics units to lead camps and provide logistics support. For the 39th MCB to establish its area of operations, it needed to execute large-scale deployments to achieve full operational capability. Finally, the unit performed movement control functions to control evacuees’ flow between locations on RAB, ROB, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and other miscellaneous movements.

While 39th MCB can self-sustain in a garrison footprint, its METL does not support large-scale external sustainment functions. However, this mission called for the unit to provide non-standard sustainment centering upon supply and service management. Supply consisted of the bulk of the work done by the ground units involving supply Classes I, II, III, IV, VII, VIII, and X. These can be divided into two categories: life support, which included Classes I/II/VI/VIII, and facilities support, which included Classes III, IV, and VII. These supply classes were provided through a combined contractor, military, and civilian effort and were scaled to match demand. These types of non-standard support required the employment of 15 companies acting as camp leadership teams and two contracting officer’s representatives (CORs) assigned to the area of operations.

Life support and population morale represented the core of 39th MCB’s mission. Over time, the unit established several lines of operation to guarantee a suitable quality of life for the evacuees. This was a complex task that required significant optimization of the unit’s approach. With maturation, reductions in supply chain disruptions, redundancy of efforts, and wasted time led to successful mission completion.

Provision of Class I, food and water, represented a significant portion of the supply support and was complicated due to the evacuees’ differing cultural expectations of food. The first step in determining how to approach this challenge was identifying the population’s needs. The extensive Class I support was obvious immediately upon establishing the task force; however, several assumptions about Class I proved incorrect. Furthermore, adjustments occurred frequently as the unit adapted to sustain longer-term life support operations when presented with increased evacuee holding times.

While the issues with Class I varied, a few were significant. The style and ingredients used in the food cooked by the 55th Quartermaster Company (55th QM Co), an attached field feeding company, stood in stark contrast to the average Afghan’s diet. The lack of bread, flavored rice, and fruits caused confusion and resulted in the underfeeding of babies and toddlers. Additionally, several evacuees transiting the camps had medical conditions and were skeptical of exercising flexibility in constructing their diets. Furthermore, avoidable disruptions in the Class I supply chain and varying portion sizes raised tensions.

39th MCB adopted a blended military–contractor approach to satisfy Class I demands. This consisted of field feeding support to the DPC by the 55th QM Co consisting of hot meals for breakfasts and dinners with rations served for lunch. Contractors filled the capabilities gap left by the 55th QM Co and serviced the rest of the camps. During Task Force Home’s early days, evacuees would join long queues to receive and eat their meals from dining facility/cafeteria tents to ensure that living spaces stayed free of food waste. As the mission matured, food distribution operations changed to allow family representatives to take food back to the living quarters.

To address issues with Class I, 39th MCB used a two-track strategy. One was working with contractors to adjust meal support, and the assigned CORs maintained supervision of the feeding operations to ensure quality. The other track was to work through the 55th QM Co to adjust military meals by increasing the amount of served fruits, seeking more recognizable ingredients, and providing specialized culinary training. These efforts resulted in a dramatic increase in evacuee satisfaction of the food and a noticeable decrease in undereating among vulnerable populations.

From the outset, 39th MCB leadership knew that the inbound evacuees would be mostly without clean clothes, blankets and pillows, and hygiene items. Clothing and personal items, Classes II and VI, respectively, were in great demand for the duration of the operation. Evacuees were initially supposed to be in Germany no longer than ten days, and, as such, clothing laundering services and equipment were not contracted. However, this proved unrealistic, and evacuees often spent weeks in the encampments while their clothing became soiled and hygiene items rapidly consumed.

39th MCB established multiple lines of effort to satisfy the need for clothing, blankets, and hygiene items. As the largest encampment, the DPC leveraged its interagency liaison to research, contact, and employ several charitable organizations to fulfill requirements. These organizations provided significant amounts of clothing, bags, blankets, toys, and other miscellaneous personal items. The liaison also contacted local German Afghan civil groups, local religious organizations, and other individual donors to coordinate the delivery of needed supplies. A later effort to establish a permanent solution was direct MCB coordination with the local United Service Organization (USO) and Red Cross, who provided structured, larger-scale support.

Class II and VI supplies distribution occurred primarily from the DPC’s central processing building because the DPC was the largest distribution site within the task force. External LSAs would draw from DPC stocks to fulfill their supply demands. This central processing building processed all evacuees to the DPC camp and most of the evacuees to other LSAs. It evolved into three independent sections managed by volunteer leaders and overseen by DPC leadership: the Red Cross distribution point, the USO distribution point, and a miscellaneous donations distribution point. The Red Cross provided comfort kits, including hygiene items and blankets. The USO provided donated clothes and winter wear to the evacuees unused to the cold German weather. The miscellaneous distribution point provided a baby bottle exchange service, donated baggage items, and specific winter wear items. These locations relied on interpreters to communicate with customer evacuees and distribute requested items.

Through the entirety of Task Force Home, Medical supplies, CLVIII, were also in great demand. Before their arrival, leadership assumed inbound evacuees were likely to arrive with a wide array of physical injuries, infections, and behavioral health issues. The 30th Medical Brigade (30th MED BDE) procured medical supplies to provide continuous healthcare. 30th MED BDE established its initial routine care clinic in the DPC central processing building, and increased role is throughout the LSAs to reflect increasing demands as the population enlarged. In addition to routine care, 39th MCB facilitated the distribution of thousands of Varicella, MMR, Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccination doses and COVID testing.

The attached linguist team was the only element in the task force with the language skills capable of assisting medical experts in providing care. For routine visits to Role 1 clinics, interpreters first determined an individual’s symptoms and then guided them to their relevant Role 1 clinic. There, dedicated linguists at each of the clinics would sit with the evacuees individually and assist them in communicating with medical professionals. Linguists also played a critical role in gathering personnel data from evacuees and locating patients for medical care.

In addition to life support, facilities support played a key role in 39th MCB’s mission. ROB is not designed to support this type of mission; the unit made significant efforts to establish and improve necessary facilities. This required employing supply Classes III, IV, VII, and X and contracted services to provide security, capacity, cultural accommodation, and facilities maintenance.

The MCB used supply Classes III, IV, and VII to bolster security by providing greater observation for security forces and controlling movement within each of the camps. Construction fencing was erected along key perimeters for access control, evacuee flows, and privacy. Furthermore, the unit set up lights to ensure security forces had clear lines of sight at weak points along these perimeters. Fuel was needed for the trucks and forklifts transporting construction materials, the diesel-electric light sets, and other miscellaneous equipment.

Due to supply constraints, a combined military and contractor approach was necessary to provide adequate security. Fences and barriers were employed in all LSAs and the DPC. Camp leadership leveraged the DPC’s stocks of construction fencing and traffic barriers to control traffic flows, restrict areas, and obscure external observation of the camp’s operations. To achieve the same effects in the outlying LSAs, contractors, supervised by assigned CORs, used preexisting fencing to establish parts of the LSA perimeters and then erected temporary construction fencing to fill gaps. Contractors also provided their own diesel-electric light sets and fuel to camps that needed them.

To address the impending billeting challenge, lodging capacity on ROB required rapid expansion. The DPC had an array of pre-constructed personnel holding areas (PHAs) that could house evacuees but lacked beds. It also lacked restrooms and showers required to accommodate the anticipated population. Planned sites for the other LSAs had no preexisting infrastructure and required temporary tents and ancillary facilities to be emplaced. This merited heavy reliance on contractors to provide tents, climate control, restrooms, and showers. Contractors also provided the DPC and the outlying LSAs with toilets and showers, which CORs inspected daily for serviceability.

Each of the camp leadership teams coordinated with the relevant contractors to emplace tents, restrooms, and other key assets. Before construction, these teams considered the cultural norms of the evacuee population and provided for privacy between men, women, and families. Tents were placed based on terrain availability, cultural restrictions, and inputs from contractors to allow for adequate organization and servicing. Evacuee use patterns informed the locations of equipment, and those locations evolved to accommodate shifting needs.

Concerning facilities maintenance, 39th MCB identified cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous items and contracted deep cleaning services and waste disposal as necessities. Soldiers intermittently did basic, non-hazardous cleaning, and evacuees conducted more routine cleaning in living areas. This required an assortment of cleaning supplies to ensure regular cleaning activities. The unit used two distinct methods to procure these supplies: government purchase card (GPC) and Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army). High urgency and non-standard purchases required the use of the unit GPC. Camp leadership communicated immediate needs of miscellaneous items to battalion (BN) S-4, who further submitted requests. The use of the GPC was most prevalent during the beginning of Task Force Home and tapered off as the mission ended due to increased long-term predictability. Conversely, the use of GCSS-Army was initially sparse but grew to encompass most purchases by the end of operations. However, both methods relied on BN S-4’s engagement in procurement.

Servicing of contracted assets fell into two categories: hazardous material cleaning and waste disposal. Hazardous materials cleaning services included laundering soiled bedsheets, cleaning restrooms and showers, and cleaning human waste or bodily fluids. These services were initially requested or added to the established contracts based on emerging demands.

Soldiers collected laundry, which the contracting company returned throughout the week based on demand. Evacuees gathered their bedsheets before departing and deposited them in a collection bin located in their buildings. Soldiers took the bins to laundry trucks parked at the DPC central processing building. Clean laundry would return to the DPC to be unloaded by soldiers and for further use. Assigned CORs handled any delays in laundry processing or dissatisfactory laundering.

Contractors who provided restrooms and showers also provided daily cleaning services for their units. The servicing rates were detailed in the initial contracts and adjusted to address fluctuating demand. Whether units were cleaned and replenished once or three times a day, their CORs would ensure the arrival of the cleaning crews and then synch with camp leadership teams to ensure quality control of the services. If services were dissatisfactory, they would follow the same procedures to address issues as the laundry service.

Human waste and bodily fluid cleaning emerged as a requirement as the operation matured, and many evacuees became long-term tenants. Since the MCB’s Soldiers were not consistently trained for this type of waste disposal, contract adjustments were necessary to ensure clean living spaces and proper site closeout. This occurred mainly at the DPC because it was the only camp to use preexisting hardstand buildings extensively. However, biohazardous disposal functions were performed at other locations.

All 39th MCB’s efforts, ranging from performing its traditional mission set to adapting to execute novel functions, culminated in the successful execution of Task Force Home. This effort included two component services, three battalions, 15 companies, and several interagency organizations. It constituted seven encampments’ missions commanded by a central tactical operations center, which provided critical life support functions to more than 12,000 evacuees. The entirety of the operation cost more than $24 million and covered a wide array of contracted services and assets, which 39th MCB leveraged to provide safety, security, and comfort to its tenants.

By the mission’s end, ROB emptied and the units that led their camps had completed their recovery tasks. While this operation rests in the past, the likelihood of similar calls to action looms large in the near future. Across the globe, as governments falter and authoritarian aggression spikes, units like 39th MCB may well be called to provide life support to Americans and America’s allies fleeing danger. From places in Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, the need to learn from Operation Allies Welcome and Task Force Home become increasingly relevant to the U.S, keeping its promise of leaving no one behind.

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Lt. Col. Matthew Rivera currently serves as the 39th MCB commander and commander for Task Force Home. He holds a master’s degree from Kansas State University in supply chain management.

Maj. Michael McCrory currently serves as the battalion executive officer for 39th MCB and the deputy commander for Task Force Home. He holds a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in supply chain management.

1st Lt. George Ngoh currently serves as the 1st Inland Cargo Transfer Company executive officer and was the deputy commander for the DPC during Operation Allies Welcome. He holds a bachelor’s degree from West Point in Chinese- Mandarin.

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This article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.

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