Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is playing a major role in the ongoing noncombatant evacuation operation from Afghanistan, and it will soon play host to refugees who are being transported to the United States following the fall of the government to the Taliban militant group.
The base’s C-17 transports could be seen on flight tracking software making up a significant portion of the massive air bridge created by allied nations to facilitate the contingency operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport. The USAF planes involved in the operation are primarily flying under variations of the callsigns “Moose” and “RCH.” Photos from Afghanistan show U.S. Marines unloading supplies and preparing the aircraft for evacuation operations. The C-17 has become an emblem of the evacuation, first for disturbing images of Afghan civilians clutching the landing gear during takeoff before falling from the sky, and later for the iconic photograph of 800 evacuees airborne and out of harm’s way. European militaries have been using their smaller Airbus A400M planes in the same role.
On Monday, it was confirmed that the Joint Base would be one of four bases in the United States to house refugees upon their escape from Afghanistan by way of a task force established at the facility.
“The task force will provide housing, medical, logistics, and transportation support for vulnerable Afghans as they begin to arrive in the United States over the upcoming days,” a base spokesperson said in a statement. “The security of our community, including our guests, remains the number one priority, and we are taking the appropriate measures to ensure everyone remains safe and healthy.”
Base staff said members of the local community have been asking how they can help the refugees upon arrival, and a plan is being developed to allow residents to do so.
“Understanding the urge for many to help, we will send out information on where and how to provide donations or support once we’ve identified the proper avenues with the appropriate aid agencies,” the statement said.
The Afghan refugees will be housed at the Joint Base as well as Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Lee, Virginia.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Monday that the goal is to be able to receive about 25,000 evacuees in the coming days and weeks.
As of Monday night, 25 C-17 aircraft, three C-130 aircraft, and a combination of 61 charter commercial and other military flights had departed Kabul within the last 24 hours, Kirby said.