Ramstein passenger services aids displaced U.S. citizens

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Stefan Alford
  • United States Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
Shortly after 2 a.m. today, the senior 435th Air Base Wing representative at the base passenger terminal surveyed the scene before him -- more than 200 Americans displaced from Lebanon were stretched across seats, the floor and cots as they awaited transportation back to the United States.

Then he caught sight of Capt. Scott Murphy, the officer in charge of passenger services with the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron.

"What the heck are you still doing here? I thought you went home," said Col. Richard Wheeler, 435th Civil Engineer Group commander.

"I'm just about to leave," said Captain Murphy, who had been coordinating assistance efforts for the departees since 11 a.m. the previous day.

"Yeah, you said that two hours ago," Colonel Wheeler said, his eyes narrowing just enough to indicate that he didn't believe the captain this time either. They exchanged weary smiles and then continued with the task at hand to ensure their guests were comfortable and their needs were being met.

"It's tough to leave because there's always one more thing you can do (to help)," Captain Murphy said.

It's an attitude that his 30 passenger service troops, many working beyond their normal 12-hour shifts, took to heart as well.

"It's very rewarding to be able to help these people and to actually see firsthand how you're making a difference in their lives," said Airman 1st Class Brendan Fassl, a passenger service agent. The biggest emotional aspect for him about those having to flee from the war-torn country was the number of children.

"Seeing the kids and helping them get to safety, you realize how important this is," he said, nodding toward a group of half a dozen 5- to 7-year-olds. The children had gathered around some of his co-workers and were playing games while their parents tried to catch a few hours of sleep before the next leg of the journey home.

The passenger services staff had already provided for two normal rotator missions with more than 300 people each on July 22, when the first wave of those displaced from Lebanon began to arrive. By midnight, four C-17 Globemaster III missions had brought in more than 400 people, and another seven were scheduled throughout the next day. In all, more than 1,000 departees were scheduled to traverse the base over the weekend.

"This is one of the busiest (Air Mobility Command) en-route ports in the world for passengers," said Master Sgt. Daniel Saunders, one of the passenger operations NCOs in charge. "Our guys are already asked to do a lot and work long hours, but this is a unique experience for them and they are very excited to be a part of this effort."

Among the other agencies assisting the temporary visitors during their Ramstein layover were the American Red Cross, United Services Organization, Department of State, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the U.S. Army's 64th Replacement Company and numerous base units, to include services, communications, logistics and medical. Their efforts were not lost on the recipients.

"Everyone is very helpful here and they have all the amenities you could think of," said Nadine Nuwayhid, who has lived in Beirut six years as an investment services counselor.

"All of the military people have been great and are going out of their way to take care of us," she said.

Meanwhile, Captain Murphy was still wandering among the tired passengers, asking what more could be done.