Ellsworth AFB volunteers assist Afghan evacuees
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — In the closing weeks of the Afghan War, American service members found themselves working around the clock to help their Afghan partners escape the Taliban.
Many service members from Ellsworth Air Force Base were among the group of volunteers known as Operation Sacred Promise, working to honor their partners in the Afghan military by assisting them in their transition from Afghanistan and helping them build new lives in the United States.
“I’m incredibly proud of the efforts from our 28th Bomb Wing Raider Airmen to assist our Afghan friends and allies,” said Col. Joseph Sheffield, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “Service before self is a core tenant of the Air Force and to see our folks immediately and aggressively find ways to serve and make a difference in countless lives was satisfying.”
Airmen were tasked with helping needy Afghans in securing the Special Immigrant Visa required for them to come into the U.S.. The team worked 24 hours a day, going through hundreds of emails, doing everything they could to get as many evacuees approved as quickly and safely as possible.
“I was on the initial team that was notified that help was needed and I started working that night to get people out,” said Tech. Sgt. Dana Long, 28th Maintenance Squadron assistant propulsion flight chief. “After a several hours and hundreds of people reaching out we created ways to funnel, capture and catalog data for the team that spanned 6 squadrons on Ellsworth and two other Air Force bases.”
Long said her team trained others and relayed information to State Departments, sponsors, and leadership at all levels, even going so far as translating three different languages to fill out paperwork.
Although the Ellsworth volunteers three week mission is over, they continue to be reminded of the impact of their work.
“The emails we received after we were able to help the refugees were so heart-lifting,” said Senior Airman Noah Wilde, 28th Munitions Squadron armament support member. “I still wish I could do more.”