OSI ‘surge’ pivotal to historic Afghan evacuation mission

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • Office of Special Investigations Public Affairs

In the span of 24 hours, Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, transformed into the United States’ two primary evacuation hubs for Operation Allies Refuge, supporting the most expansive humanitarian airlift in the history of the U.S.

With hundreds of flights and more than 35,000 Afghan travelers through Ramstein AB alone, the U.S. Government and its NATO allies and partners focused on the sheltering, feeding, caring and safety of the travelers.

The Office of Special Investigations played a critical role in this successful mission execution. OSI facilitated and conducted the screening and processing of more than 60,000 individuals in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, and more than 35,000 in U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa.

One hundred-twelve OSI special agents, analysts and professional staff personnel from 24 units and five wings across the globe surged to Germany and Qatar to team up with interagency partners, including the Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Criminal Investigation Command, National Counterterrorism Center, and Customs and Border Protection. Working around the clock, they collectively provided force protection for military service members, the multitude of volunteers, the installations, the travelers themselves, and the American homeland for this unprecedented undertaking.

“Although the volume of activity took place in Germany and Qatar, OSI teamed elsewhere with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to enable their force protection efforts at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy and Naval Station Rota, Spain,” said Col. Terrence M. Joyce, OSI Region 5 commander, USAFE-AFAFRICA, Ramstein AB. “The mission continues and the extraordinary collaboration across the interagency team is a testament to our shared unity of purpose. I’m immensely honored and humbled to serve alongside such selfless professionals and be a part of Task Force Allies Refuge.”

This sentiment was echoed by Col. Tara Lunardi, OSI Region 2 commander, Langley Air Force Base, Va., in her email lauding the efforts of her region’s detachment personnel in Qatar.

“Truly a heroic effort by you who’ve been on the front lines since Day 1 to take this incredible and unexpected task across the finish line,” she said. “You are genuine examples of how OSI talent gets it done time and again, in spite of little sleep and heart-wrenching scenes hourly. The command couldn’t have hand-picked a better team to lead us through such a historic effort…so grateful for everyone’s professionalism, attitude and eye-watering work ethic.”

OSI and its multiple federal law enforcement partners continue to remain focused on their screening and vetting missions in support of operations at the overseas hubs, consistent with the dual goals of protecting national security and providing protection for Afghan evacuees.

“We are so proud of the important work the OSI team has been doing in support of Operations Allies Refuge/Allies Welcome,” said Brig. Gen. Terry L. Bullard, OSI commander. “OSI special agents, analysts and professional staff from across the globe surged to ensure the safe, secure and effective reception and transit of Afghan evacuees.”

To date, approximately 124,000 people have been safely flown out of Afghanistan, including about 6,000 American citizens. This massive military, diplomatic and humanitarian effort, one of the most difficult in America’s history, has been an extraordinary feat of logistics and coordination under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable.

“While this mission has been relentless, complex and incredibly fluid, each member of OSI continues to go above and beyond the call of duty, demonstrating to our travelers, allies and partners across the world, the true Spirit of America,” Joyce added.