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News | Oct. 8, 2021

Commentary: Chief Petty Officer Stephen Mitchell on volunteering with Operation Allies Refuge

By Chief Petty Officer Stephen Mitchell DLA Disposition Services

Operation Allies Refuge was a United States military operation to airlift certain at-risk Afghan civilians – particularly interpreters, U.S. embassy employees, and other prospective special immigrant visa applicants – from Afghanistan. U.S. personnel also helped NATO and regional allies in their respective evacuation efforts from Hamid Karzai International Airport in the country's capital of Kabul.

I participated in the operation from August 14, 2021, until September 3, 2021, volunteering a total of around 125 hours before and after my daily shift working for DLA Disposition Services at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

The primary benefactors were the displaced Afghan people and other foreign nationals forced to flee Afghanistan. We were tasked with assembling 120 tents to help evacuees.

During the operation here in Qatar I had numerous chances to interact and speak with the evacuees. I will never forget the look on a young Afghan boy’s face when I played soccer with him, or the look on a mother’s face when I was able to provide her with new clothing and coloring books for her children. The operation saw over 14,000 people pass safely through the airbase with zero mishaps and several babies being born.

Man putting up a tent.
Operation Allies Refuge
Chief Petty Officer Stephen Mitchell takes part in Operation Allies Refuge as a volunteer during his deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
Photo By: DLA Disposition Services
VIRIN: 100821-D-D0441-201
I have been a member of the U.S. Navy for 21 years, and helping to care for and transport the people transiting from Afghanistan was one of the most fulfilling events I have ever been a part of. While serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009-10, I got a chance to meet and work with many Afghans. In my experience, I found them to be a hardworking, friendly, and loyal people.