Americans fleeing Lebanon arrive at McGuire|
Posted 7/24/2006 Updated 7/24/2006
by Staff Sgt. Kelly White
305th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
7/24/2006 - MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. (AFPN) -- As of today, U.S. efforts to assist in the departure of American citizens from the conflict in Lebanon have led to more than 1,200 displaced people processing through here. American citizens are traveling aboard C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from here as well as from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and McChord AFB, Wash.
"We are glad to be able to help our fellow Americans leave Lebanon and return safely to their homes in the United States," said Col. Bill Spacy, 305th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.
Airmen at McGuire have been preparing for more than a week to receive American citizens seeking passage out of Lebanon, said the colonel.
"Our top priority is their welfare and security, and our dedicated mobility professionals are proud to be involved in this vital mission."
The first group of 102 citizens, under the State Department-led program, arrived at McGuire July 23. Many were women and children who started their journey aboard Navy ships from Lebanon to Cyprus, where they boarded C-17s ultimately bound for McGuire.
"As passengers arrive here, we're helping them get medical assistance if needed, processing them through customs and immigration, giving them something to eat, and helping them secure follow-on travel to their final U.S. destination," said Maj. Michael Godwin, the 305th Mission Support Squadron commander. "It's a thrilling yet humbling experience to come together to help other people in this way."
One evacuee, 18-year-old Andrew Khoury, his parents and two brothers were in Lebanon on a family vacation from Houston.
"It was getting pretty dangerous," Mr. Khoury said. "The worst part was in the very beginning. We were afraid we wouldn't get a spot on the boat. There were huge crowds, and everyone was fighting each other."
"We want to thank our troops and everyone for all they did," Mr. Khoury said. "They got us home safely."
These U.S. citizens were caught in a war zone, said Daniel Schneider of the Department of Health and Human Services. He said "the U.S. military has done a wonderful job through the entire effort."
As of today, a total of 12 C-17s have transported American citizens here. Flights are expected throughout the week, until Americans choosing to flee Lebanon are safely returned to their homes.