We did the extraordinary; 62nd AW Airman details his involvement in Operation Allies Refuge

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zoe Thacker
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

C-17 Globemaster III crews were at the forefront of evacuation efforts, the media and the thoughts of Team McChord Airmen during Operation Allies Refuge from mid to late August of this year. Aircrews would work a continuous cycle of sleep and fly, evacuating military personnel, U.S. and Afghan citizens almost every single day for weeks from the rising tensions in Kabul, Afghanistan.


U.S. Air Force Capt. Jimmy Dimmick, 8th Airlift Squadron instructor pilot, was the Airman responsible for coordinating many of these aircrews, flights and evacuation missions. Dimmick’s role in Operation Allies Refuge was that of a stage manager at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.


“Every aircraft and aircrew that came through Germany, and eventually through most of Europe, came through our office in order to make sure we assigned the appropriate crew and aircraft to every mission that was assigned to us by higher headquarters [Air Mobility Command],” Dimmick said. “I had to ensure there was a crew-rested team and a mission-capable aircraft available to fly every tasked mission so we could keep a flow of operations.”


The flights that Dimmick organized were to and from vastly different areas along the evacuation route; whether it was crews arriving fresh from the United States, crews arriving in Germany with evacuees from Kabul, or crews heading to Kabul from other locations to pick up passengers.


“For a little while upon arriving in Germany to begin as stage manager, it was only myself and another co-pilot from the 4th Airlift Squadron,” Dimmick said. “Between the two of us, we were managing upwards of 20-30 crews at any given time each day.”


Dimmick and his stage manager counterparts worked directly with the 618th Air Operations Center at Air Mobility Command Headquarters, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and with several units at Ramstein, to ensure each mission was able to be carried out by crews they assigned.


“At Ramstein I worked with a number of units, most closely with the 721st Mobility Support Squadron,” said Dimmick. “The 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing commander and the 721st Air Mobility Operations Group commander were both closely tied in to everything we did and really helped grease the wheels for us.”


Dimmick went on to express how essential the close coordination across Ramstein Air Base was to getting the mission done.


“I got to see my work directly impact the people who were coming out of Kabul,” Dimmick said. “When crews left Ramstein and returned with passengers onboard, everything that we were working for was then happening right in front of us and being part of that mission was really rewarding.”


Not only did Dimmick express his gratitude for being part of such an impactful mission, but he also expressed gratitude for the units he was working alongside at Ramstein.


“Ramstein did a remarkable job considering the amount of preparation that we had, especially the people working through the night to set up tents and cots for the evacuees,” Dimmick said. “I had a view of the airfield from my place as stage manager and upon an aircraft’s arrival, the passengers were always met with medical personnel and other well-coordinated relief efforts, even despite the fact that they were at times overwhelmed with how many evacuees were coming in.”


Because of the rapidly-changing environment in Kabul and the intensity of trying to evacuate as many citizens as possible before the impending deadline, stage managers, crews themselves and higher headquarters were having to make many decisions on the fly and conditions were often chaotic. However, even with a bit of chaos, Dimmick thinks that the mission was carried out successfully in the long run.


“It speaks volumes of the people who were involved in the planning and execution of this, that we were able to pull it off without any significant safety breaches on our side,” Dimmick said. “This mission reinforced how much of a team effort everything we do is because if all of us wouldn’t have been working together on this, I don’t think this would have been possible.”


In total, the United States evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan in less than three weeks during Operation Allies Refuge, which is now considered the largest non-combatant military airlift in U.S. history.


“C-17 Airmen and our coalition partners around the world ended up doing something amazing,” Dimmick said. “I think the people who were being evacuated saw that no matter how difficult the path to get out of Afghanistan was, this was their best chance. At the end of the day, we did the extraordinary and these aircrews are truly responsible for saving thousands of lives.”