USAFE Airmen integral in helping Americans departing Lebanon

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erin Dorrance
  • 435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Smiles, handshakes and hugs were exchanged as 130 Americans and family members of American citizens transited through Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, today and July 21.

The authorized departees from Lebanon disembarked a C-17 Globemaster III for a few hours at each of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe bases while in transit to the United States.

"Team Ramstein and Team Incirlik are facilitating the safe recovery of American citizens," said Gen. William T. Hobbins, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander. "It is the expertise that is demonstrated daily here that is really helpful in times such as this where people are displaced and they need a U.S. Air Force lift. Our Ramstein and Incirlik teams are truly ensuring freedom's future."

While Incirlik assisted 29 men, women and children July 21, the first aircraft carrying 101 authorized departees from Cyprus landed at Ramstein today.

"I didn't know what to expect as we unloaded the buses from the plane," said Maj. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, 16th Air Force vice commander. "It immediately struck me how relieved and thankful our citizens were to be here out of harm's way. I was proud to see how well USAFE personnel are taking care of our American citizens. You can see the pride in the faces of our Air Force professionals and you can see how happy our citizens are to be back in their care."

As one American stepped off the bus at Ramstein, he emotionally hugged Chief Master Sgt. Renee Starghill, 86th Airlift Wing command chief.

"It gave me chills," she said smiling. "Everyone is very appreciative and happy with the support we are gladly providing."

Ramstein offered home-cooked meals, telephone calls, medical care, chaplain services and Airmen who lent an ear to listen to the experiences of those who had departed Lebanon, said Col. Glen Apgar, 86th AW vice commander, who said Ramstein Airmen are proud they can help fellow Americans.

Col. "Tip" Stinnette, 39th Air Base Wing commander, agreed that the movement is a joint effort.

"Team Incirlik has pulled together to provide everything the American citizens leaving Lebanon need to expedite their journey home," said Colonel Stinnette. "We are a small community with a big heart providing a little bit of home to these citizens. I am very proud of everyone involved from the military members volunteering off-duty time to process our visitors, to civilians and family members who are pitching in to help as well."

Three sisters who arrived at Ramstein nearly 36 hours after leaving Lebanon were pleased with the support.

"Everyone here has been nothing but nice," said Mary Auode, a Lebanese American who left Lebanon with her twin sister Mona and younger sister Julie.

The Auode sisters were visiting family as they do every other year for the past two decades. Ms. Mona Auode said they never experienced bombings in the past and they knew they needed to leave when the airport in Beirut was bombed.

All the sisters smiled when they mentioned they had just called their mother in Boston and told her they were safe on an Air Force base in Germany on their way home.

"She cried and said she was glad we were on our way home," said Ms. Julie Auode.