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.
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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.
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.
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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.
Some of the C-17 aircraft and Airmen involved in the Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) are with the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron based at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan:
Det.1's primary mission is flying passengers and cargo into Operation Enduring Freedom's area of operations. Though usually flying folks downrange, they proved they are just as capable of flying people out of harm's way.
Two crews from Det.1 joined the assisted departure of Americans from Lebanon in Cyprus.
One crew, led by aircraft commander Capt. Lauren Palagi, flew from Manas to Cyprus to pick up the Americans from Lebanon July 23. The other crew went to supplement the 817 EAS fleet at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
I could make a snide remark here about how when the $#it hits the fan, everyone suddenly loves the U.S. military.
But I won't.
What I will say is that all of those passengers should adopt a deployed service member or make a donation to a veterans' support organization when they get home.