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CAPT. John Perkins, USN, APR
Chief of Public Affairs, U.S. Transportation Command, Commercial
Afghanistan Evacuation Support
As the last U.S. service members departed Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 31, U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) was continuing to move evacuees from temporary safe havens onward to the United States. Airlift capability has enabled the evacuation of more than 116,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, 2021. Since the end of July, the United States and partnering countries have evacuated approximately 124,000 people to safety.
Air Mobility Command, USTRANSCOM’s air component, is supporting this operation with over 200 military aircraft, flying around the clock. Aircraft include those used for military transportation, such as C-17s and C-130s, and aerial refuelers such as the KC-135s and KC-10s. Approximately 400 active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve crews are flying evacuees to safety.
“From the time TRANSCOM received orders to commence deployment, initial force elements critical to securing HKIA were airborne in less than 3 hours. We immediately commenced NEO operations and continued around the clock over the last 17 days to assist with the safe evacuation of over 120,000 people”
“The United States is the only nation capable of rapidly deploying forces and providing non-stop airlift operations at this scale.”U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command said. “I would like to especially thank Air Mobility Command for their impressive role in providing airlift, aeromedical evacuation, aerial refueling, contingency response forces, and a multitude of other critical support.”
Lyons mentioned that the courage, professionalism, and responsiveness of the U.S. Mobility Air forces is impressive beyond measure. The iconic photo of REACH 871 rescuing 823 Afghans underscores both the desperation and fear of the Afghan people, as well as the lifesaving capability of our military providing hope for a new beginning and better future.”
“I would also like to express the sense of profound pride I have in the creative, determined, and professional way that our forces have overcome challenges.,” Lyons said.” These incredible achievements, this historic airlift, speaks to the humanity of our troops in this mission and the skill and professionalism of our U.S. military.”
Commercial airlines, both from the United States and other countries, are playing a vital role in moving Afghanistan evacuees from staging locations onward to the United States. U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) recognizes that our ability to respond in times of crisis is inextricably linked to commercial industry. Our air component, Air Mobility Command, is coordinating the schedule for both Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) activated and other contracted international flights into Dulles International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport. Air Mobility Command is also scheduling contracted domestic flights taking passengers from those two airports to Volk Field in Wisconsin and Biggs Field in Texas. Aircraft activated as part of CRAF will continue to conduct international flights to move evacuees to the United States and additional commercial airlift needs will continue to be contracted by USTRANSCOM through at least the middle of September.
On Aug. 22, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III ordered USTRANSCOM to activate Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to augment support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines contributed a total of 18 commercial aircraft.
USTRANSCOM consistently communicates with airline leadership to coordinate flight schedules and manage the intricacies of this complex operation. We appreciate the tireless work of the flight crews, aircraft cleaning teams, ground crews and all employees of the airline industry committed to this effort, working with us to safely move our Afghan partners and their families. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander, U.S. Central Command said,
“Moreover, this evacuation could simply not have been done without the amazing flexibility of U.S. Transportation Command and the airlift provided by the United States Air Force. No other military in the world has anything like it. Our capability to successfully carry out this mission is dependent on the critical capacity industry partners provide in extending our global transportation network. Together, we deliver!”
For international flights to the US, between August 21 and 30, 72 USTRANSCOM contracted and coordinated passenger flights from points overseas to Dulles International Airport and 7 flights to Philadelphia International Airport have been completed, with dozens more scheduled.
On the domestic front, from August 22 through 30, 44 USTRANSCOM contracted and coordinated passenger flights from Dulles to Volk Field, Wisconsin and 26 flights to Biggs Field, Texas have been completed, with dozens more scheduled.