Nomads Support Operation Allies Welcome

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Colleen Coulthard
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

 From August 2021 to February 2022, the 33rd Fighter Wing provided 15 service members in support of Operation Allies Welcome across the United States.

Airmen from the 33rd FW, alongside non-government organizations including the Peace Corps, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Federal Emergency Management Agency, are providing transportation, temporary housing, medical care and general support to vulnerable Afghans as they complete steps of the immigration process.

The deployment gave the 33rd FW Airmen a different perspective on what it means to serve. Whether listening to stories, providing medical support or sharing fun ways to pass the time, their service helped displaced Afghans start new lives.

“The most impactful memory I have was from a young girl who came into the office at night because she was concerned about being alone. She described in writing how she had lost both her parents to the Taliban, how her brothers were separated from her when they were in the Kabul airport,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Dettman, Liberty Village help desk operator, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “We could see how hurt and scared she was, and did our best to reassure her that she was safe, and tried to guide her, to help her mentally decompress.”

The help desks at McGuire are an extension of each Mayor Cell and are the hubs for services and information. Airmen positioned out of the Mayor Cell(s); the centers of military support within Liberty Village, provide direct assistance to the guests, through translators and resources available.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Wilson deployed to McGuire and was assigned as a help desk operator. For Wilson, a man with 18 years of prior service, who joined not long after 9/11, serving the residents gave him a chance to help Afghans in a different way.

“Our job is to help solve problems, being able to quickly come up with solutions and provide care and basic necessities to our guests,” said Wilson. “Whether it's a guest with medical issues, questions about supplies, or even on how the process of obtaining citizenship goes, we’re for the most part, the first ones they come to for help.”

Airmen deployed to Operations Allies Welcome face daily challenges ranging from providing the basic necessities, to disease prevention, all the way to preparing Afghans for resettlement into the United States.

Nomads who worked out of the Disease Isolation Building made their impact by keeping the spread of disease under control and ensuring those in quarantine had not only their everyday needs met but also ways to help the time pass.

“Seeing how excited and grateful the guests are when they get things that to us seem normal, like a soccer ball or a deck of cards, makes me feel more grateful,” said Senior Airman Jonathan Close, who worked in a disease isolation building within Liberty Village.

Airmen deployed are often challenged in their capabilities as service members, and forced out of their comfort zones, but for many Nomads pushed them to see beyond a war and into the lives of the Afghan people.

“To see these people so grateful for what they have shows that the world may be separated by color, language, beliefs, etc., but we’re all human and for the most part, we’re all the same in that we want peace, to live free, and to be productive members in this world,” said Wilson.

Nearly all of the 33rd FW personnel, and Afghan guests have moved on from Operation Allies Welcome, whether to an old life, or new one, they went through the journey together and their impact lives on at the 33rd Fighter Wing.