USAFE Airmen lauded for efforts in Lebanon operations

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chuck Roberts
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
As approximately 1,800 U.S. citizens passed through here via Air Force aircraft, the U.S. ambassador to Germany paid a visit to meet the transient Americans and to give thanks to the Airmen providing support.

"My hats off first of all to General Hobbins and all the people who work with him, but also to every single Airman and person involved in the military. They're all just putting their shoulders to the wheel for our American citizens in distress. This is a wonderful example of how we take care of each other," said the Honorable William R. Timken, Jr. He was at the Ramstein Air Base passenger service terminal visiting the dislocated U.S. citizens where they had been flown by a C-17 Globemaster III from Cyprus.

After a few hours stay at Ramstein, the citizens continued on aboard the same aircraft to their final destination in the United States.

The citizens were fleeing Lebanon, where the conflict between Israel and Lebanon placed the lives of U.S. citizens in danger. The U.S. Air Force joined a multinational effort to help expatriates flee the country. Since July 22, 19 C-17s have arrived at Ramstein, transporting more than 1,800 U.S. citizens.

Approximately 1,200 Airmen and civilians here quickly prepared to greet the arrival of the fleeing citizens. Preparations began at about 4 a.m. July 22 and the first arrivals showed up the same day at about 1 p.m. Food, lodging, medical support and a host of other services were quickly put into place. It was a logistical feat that could take several days, and one not understood by many American civilians, Ambassador Timken said.

"But to do it in a few hours is extraordinary and I think it showed not only the capability of the people of our armed forces, but also their interest in their fellow American citizens," the ambassador said.

The success came as no surprise to the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and he was equally thankful in his remarks given at an afternoon press availability alongside the ambassador.

"This really is a testament to the professionalism, the dedication and perseverance of the people you see behind me as well as many organizations, including the U.S. Army's 64th Replacement Company," said Gen. Tom Hobbins as he gestured to the representatives of the base agencies who supported the mobility effort. "It's in times of critical need when we become most proud of what they are doing to accomplish the care of our citizens."

Those citizens included a mother and her two teenage children that General Hobbins said he met that morning at the passenger service terminal with the ambassador. The family became stranded in Lebanon where they were on vacation from Boston. The mother was well-traveled but unfamiliar with the U.S. Air Force.

"She had traveled a lot through many parts of the world but never has she had the top-notch service of the U.S. Air Force to get her from one place to another. I was very proud of that," said General Hobbins.

Much of that service occurred over the weekend, but approximately 500 Airmen from the 435th Mission Support Group were "very motivated to support this and very proud," said Lt. Col. Lee-Ann Perkins, the 435th MSG deputy commander.

The same held true for Airmen from the 435th Services Squadron who served about 2,000 hot meals and another 2,000 box meals to eat on their continuing flight, said Lt. Col. Benjamin Ward, 435th SVS commander.

"Our troops really took pride in serving those meals," said Colonel Ward, whose Airmen also set up cots and served water and snacks.

The citizens passing through seemed surprised and pleased with the extent of services set up for them, to include free phone cards, messages announced in both English and Arabic, cribs for babies, and even a birthday cake with a candle that appeared for a 3-year-old.