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Kentucky Air Guard plays key role in Afghan evacuation

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 271st Movement Control Team and Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group receive a plane of Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command, and in support of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for up to 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan personnel essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Cerami/ 55th Signal Company)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 271st Movement Control Team and Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group receive a plane of Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command, and in support of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for up to 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan personnel essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Cerami/ 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group guides a bus into place to receive Afghan evacuees departing a plane at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group guides a bus into place to receive Afghan evacuees departing a plane at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group prepares to receive an aircraft carrying Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group prepares to receive an aircraft carrying Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group receives a plane of Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group receives a plane of Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group refuels a plane after it brought Afghan evacuees to Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group refuels a plane after it brought Afghan evacuees to Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge. The initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan personnel who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rhianna Ballenger, 55th Signal Company)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 271st Movement Control Team and Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group receive a plane of Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command, and in support of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for up to 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan personnel essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Cerami/ 55th Signal Company)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 271st Movement Control Team and Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group receive a plane of Afghan evacuees at Volk Field, Wis., Aug. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command, and in support of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for up to 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan personnel essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Cerami/ 55th Signal Company)

VOLK FIELD, Wis. -- More than 40 members of the Kentucky Air National Guard have played a key role in the reception of evacuees arriving here from Afghanistan since Aug. 22.

The Airmen, all from the Louisville, Kentucky-based 123rd Contingency Response Group, deployed to Wisconsin Aug. 21 and began supporting airfield operations immediately. They started receiving evacuees the next day.

Over the next 10 days, until Operation Allies Refuge was declared complete Aug. 31, the Air Guardsmen processed more than 50 aircraft carrying over 5,900 evacuees while working in concert with Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 271st Movement Control Team, said 1st Lt. Matt Hourigan, logistics readiness officer for the 123rd CRG. Once on the ground, the evacuees were transported to nearby Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, for further processing.

The effort was part of a larger DOD mission to assist the U.S. State department, according to Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff.

“The Department of Defense recently approved a request for assistance from the State Department to provide temporary housing, sustainment and support inside the United States for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa principal applicants, their families and other individuals at risk, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and Fort Bliss, Texas, in addition to Fort Lee, Virginia,” Piatt said.

“U.S. Northern Command is the Department of Defense's lead combatant command for this mission in the continental United States and is providing oversight in support of the Department of State. U.S. Army North, as U.S. Northern Command's Joint Force Land Component Command, is the lead operational command for this mission. The task force at Fort McCoy will provide the housing, medical, logistics and transportation support.

“We are proud to join U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command and the Department of Defense team in supporting the State Department with this mission.”

Maj. Andrew Kochman, who served as the Kentucky Air Guard’s mission commander at Volk Field, said he was equally proud of the performance of his Airmen, many of whom had just returned from Vigilant Guard, a training exercise in Puerto Rico, the night before being tasked to deploy for Operation Allies Refuge. The Airmen also had to work through a power outage at home station as they prepared to depart.

“The bottom line is that the way we deployed was a non-standard operation, but we were able to flex and make it happen,” Kochman said.

He also expressed his appreciation to the Army’s 271st Movement Control Team, which worked seamlessly with the Air Guardsmen in Wisconsin to process evacuees.

“The interoperability of our two units was pretty flawless and contributed a great deal to the success of this mission,” Kochman said.