by Milissa Bell Campbell, PM and military civilian spouse
With less than two days notice, the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) of over 50,000 active duty and military civilians’ daily schedules and extended plans were turned upside down as the largest ever, historic humanitarian airlift was put into motion on August 18, 2021 when over the course of several weeks 34,000 evacuees airlifted from Afghanistan arrived and passed through Ramstein Air Base (RAB), Germany. Base units sent a good portion of their workforce to the flight-line to support the mission. Many personnel worked 15 or more hour days, seven days a week. Normal Base and family life was disrupted with short staffed forces for all aspects of regular mission support. Families suddenly found medical, dental and other essential offices closed while those active duty and civilians embarked on what was to become a remarkable task.
“Operation Allies Welcome” lasted for 71 days on RAB where 21,000 cots were used in 552 quonset hut like tents as temporary homes. Over one million halal meals were served. Thousands of medical treatments were administered (See our own Army Lt. Col. Lois Borsay’s report for an amazing boots on the ground account.). Thirty-nine babies took their first breath of crisp air after their birth in their mothers’ interim home.
RAB reported 110 tons of donations were received including 1,000 Euros worth of new items from the Chapter in two installments. The Chapter’s support was coordinated by Vice-Regent Pam Jensen and prospective member Milissa Bell Campbell. Both members reside in villages in the Ramstein region. They kept the home fires burning as their spouses provided mission support during the event.
The first installment was purchased and delivered during a whirlwind shopping expedition by Mr. and Mrs. Vice-Regent Pam Jensen. Using the donations guidelines, they ventured out onto the economy and filled their vehicle with personal care items, shoes, clothing, toys and snack crackers valued at 750 Euros. Extreme shopping was followed by delivery to the ad hoc donation center at the old theater on RAB. From there, active duty personnel took and distributed the items as civilians were not allowed contact with the temporary guests.
The second installment began when a request for donations of essential items was posted on social media September 26 by a military spouse when there were still a few thousand evacuees being housed at RAB. The earlier donation system ended, but this spouse of a USAF 1st Sgt developed an Amazon wishlist to stream line the donation process for much needed items. Items were shipped to their home and then delivered to the flight line by the active duty 1st Sgt where the guests were housed.
After consulting with Vice-Regent Jensen, PM Campbell contacted the spouse letting her know to be on the outlook for a delivery from the Amazon wishlist from the Palatinate Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She responded quickly with gratitude.
Using the Amazon wishlist system was much better than the previous which posted the needs on social media for drop off that day on RAB. All items had to be purchased on the economy which is local village retailers so as not to deplete the Base Exchange (general merchandise store) and commissary (grocery store) for military families and to meet the regulations of on Base purchases. Within a couple of days of the initial donation drive, many of the local and regional stores in the KMC were sold out of the needed items such as basic clothing, under garments, shoes and children’s crayons. Shopping for the guest became very frustrating.
During the initial donation drive, even with next day delivery, products ordered would not arrive quickly enough to meet the daily changing needs. The new system using the Amazon wishlist assured the donors that items were actually still needed. The orders were delivered to the military spouse, sorted and then delivered by her active duty husband to the pods “market” where evacuees used a ticket system to shop for essentials.
In addition to the first donation purchase of approximately 750 Euros, the Chapter purchased
250 Euros of the following: 9 pairs of women’s trainers, 12 sports bras, 12 pairs children’s socks, 2 cases noodle cups (16 cups). A personalized delivery note was included with the order stating it was from the Chapter.
After the historic “Operation Allies Welcome” concluded, the Allies Refuge Project group posted comments of gratitude including reference to the Chapter’s donations:
“The expecting women who were craving soup really enjoyed the cup of noodles that some of you purchased.”
“One of the persons who received a pair of shoes happened to be one of our translators at the donation centre. She said the shoes are very comfortable.”
Ramstein Air Base is truly the “Global Gateway” as the travelers departed for various safe destinations to begin the next chapter of their lives.
Photo credits: D. Jensen and alliesrefuge.org