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Joint Base Charleston air force reservists reflect on Afghanistan evacuation mission

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 2:53 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Crews from Joint Base Charleston are back home after taking part in the largest non-combatant evacuation operation in U.S. military history.

JBC officials say the 315th airlift wing was one of the first to be called on to participate in helping evacuate people from Afghanistan.

Capt. Dennis Conner, a C-17 pilot in the 701st airlift squadron, Tech Sgt. Lee Hiott, a loadmaster in the 701st airlift squadron, and Tech Sgt. Joshua Lewis, 315th AMXS, were some of the air force reservists on the mission. They were also joined by Lt. Colonel Trey Adams, Major David Gantt, and Tech Sgt. Leah Schmidt.

“When the flag went up, the 315th airlift wing started taking volunteers, so we had multiple crews from all three squadrons here that stepped up to volunteer and produced crews,” Conner said. “We felt mainly a sense of pride in our country, being able to finish something we started. This is something that our generation has known for quite a while, and for us to be able to help our active-duty counterparts when they really needed our help across the board, that is why we exist and why we stay proficient in what we do.”

Tech Sgt. Hiott said they have trained to deal with situations like these, although carrying a large amount of people in that capacity was something they typically haven’t done.

During their mission they didn’t expect to help deliver a baby aboard a Charleston C-17, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.

“Having two females on board to deal with a situation like that was crucial to really help out and I think having everybody there to help out was different because I’m usually doing weight and balance, putting on vehicles and stuff, but having this many people was something out of the norm that we do,” Hiott said. “There were also other people other than the mother who needed help on the jet. Pretty much from takeoff to landing we had people that needed medical care and Capt. Green stepped up and really took care of anybody who needed help.”

The reservists said that many of the people they helped evacuate were children. Tech Sgt. Lewis said he is a new father himself and seeing all the children was a memorable moment for him.

“I was definitely missing my family but then getting to see how happy everyone was getting on the jet, how we were able to take care of them in flight, finally getting to our destination, and then just being able to recognize that they have a second chance at life at doing something better for themselves, hat was definitely nice to see and to be able to be a part of that,” he said.

When asked if they would volunteer for a mission like this again, all three men said they would without hesitation.

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