Workers with the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services (AFES) team both domestically and stationed abroad offer assistance to members of the U.S. military, their families and veterans providing emergency communications between family members, counseling and access to financial assistance for things like emergency travel. Sometimes these workers answer the call to help those who are helping others.
This time, the call came to the AFES staff members at Ramstein Air Base in Germany from the U.S. Air Force around 8:30 in the morning on July 22, 2019. In the midst of the recent crisis in the Middle East, the Air Force indicated that the first flight of evacuees from Lebanon would be arriving at the base around 2 p.m. local time and asked if the Red Cross could help. The AFES team responded by offering to provide evacuees water, coffee, tea and baby food.
An Air Force C-17 transport aircraft made 19 flights that day bringing in more than 1,830 people leaving Lebanon. When the evacuees got off the plane, the Red Cross was in the terminal handing out cups of cold water and bottles of water. Additional water, coffee and tea, as well as baby food were available after a briefing for all evacuees.
The Red Cross was in operation beginning with that 8:30 a.m. call on July 22 and continued working around the clock until 5 p.m. on July 25—a total of more than 80 hours straight. This effort was made possible through the tremendous efforts of five staff members and seven volunteers at the AFES station, who welcomed passengers and distributed the drinks, and also helped coordinate logistics with the military.
Evacuees were on the ground for four to seven hours before boarding the aircraft and continuing on to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. The Red Cross offered each passenger bottled water for the flight. When the aircraft took off from Ramstein Air Base, Red Cross AFES Senior Station Manager Ron West called the organization’s Disaster Operation Center at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to report the departure, the tail number for tracking and the approximate number of people on board.
Having the departure details and knowing that the flight time from Ramstein Air Base to McGuire is eight to nine hours gave local Red Cross teams supporting the incoming flight an estimated arrival time window. The information from West also alerted them regarding the number of evacuees they could expect.
Over the course of the three days, the Red Cross coordinated with the Air Force for supplies. The Air Force fed evacuees, and the Red Cross provided other refreshments. West made arrangements with the Air Force commissary for cups and water while the USO and State Department staff members provided cookies. The Air Force provided a 60-cup coffee pot, coffee and cups as well as a vehicle to transport supplies from the commissary and two to three airmen to help load and unload the supplies.
The American Red Cross is not a government agency. We rely on the assistance of caring supporters like you to deliver our critical services. You can support U.S. military members and their families through the American Red Cross as we provide assistance and comfort. Your gift will support the nationally coordinated Red Cross services provided to military families across the country and to American service men and women located throughout the world. Please make a financial donation to Armed Forces Emergency Services by calling 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions may be sent to the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services, P. O. Box 91820, Washington, DC 20090. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.