Air Guard Chiefs supporting Operation Allies Welcome
Not one, but two command chiefs from the Washington Air National Guard volunteered to support Operation Allies Welcome by leading a temporary community at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Task Force Liberty, launched in August, is responsible for Liberty Village. This secure location serves as an entry point for Afghans and their families who supported the U.S. government. Liberty Village is operated by Air Force active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard members along with other Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, JBMDL personnel and non-governmental organizations.
Chief Master Sgt. Marvin Boyd, Washington Air National Guard Command Chief, served as the senior enlisted leader in one of three temporary communities, called villages, for the last month.
A traditional Guardsman, Boyd works full time for the Veterans Administration in Spokane, Washington, as the facility telehealth coordinator. When the call came for volunteers to support OAW, he said he knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute.
“Could you imagine having to dump everything and run somewhere because your life is threatened, and take off and go to the unknown?” Boyd said. “We hear multiple stories every day of what tragedies and what trials that they had to go through just to get to the airport and then get on a plane, and the process that they went through just to get here. They’re very tired.”
Liberty Village spans three areas supporting approximately 9,300 Afghans and can house approximately 13,000. Currently, seven temporary structures — with air conditioning, showers and bathroom facilities, and cots and mattresses — are being used for accommodations in Village Three and an additional 12 are under construction for the incoming residents.
In the days after the first guests arrived, the focus was to meet all fundamental needs: a place to sleep, food, bathroom and showering facilities, a place to do laundry.
“What we told our Airmen is be patient because there’s the language barrier, but we’ve got the linguist here working with us and different people from the State Department,” Boyd said. He told Airmen to “be very patient and try to understand what [the guests] need from us.”
“They’ve gotten very trusting and accustomed to walking up to any one of us and asking us for help because they know we will take the time to help them,” he said.
In leaving, Boyd said he wanted his replacement to be someone he knew would care for the residents and the roughly 200 Airmen serving them. He put in the call to Chief Master Sgt. Brandon Ives, 141st Air Refueling Wing Command Chief.
“I know he can come in and take over and do what’s needed to be done,” Boyd said. “He’s got a lot of passion and he takes care of the Airmen really well. We’ve still got a lot to do and there’s still a lot of things that are not structured yet that he could help with his knowledge and experience.”
The village chief — the role that Boyd is entrusting to Ives — involves implementing public health mandates, managing transfers of residents with infectious diseases to medical care facilities, managing Airmen, coordinating with a cultural advisor, and standardizing the processes for daily services, such as clothing and supply distribution for the Afghan guests.
On Sept. 28, Ives assumed responsibility of Village Three together with an officer who serves as the village mayor. The duo will work to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for guests.
“It’s an unprecedented mission,” Ives said. “I’m here to help these folks who have spent many years, some of them upwards of 20 years, helping us, the U.S. government, the U.S. military in Afghanistan, and now we have the chance to help them become citizens of this great country.”
Ives said he looked forward to the challenge and the need for flexibility.
“No day is going to be the same as the day before,” Ives said. “We’re going to have a whole new group of Afghan citizens moving in almost on a daily basis. The things we are going to be dealing with, be it contractors, be it Airmen issues, you name it. It’s going to be different every day.”
Guardsmen, reservists and active duty Airmen from nearly every state and territory are serving the estimated 50,000 Afghan guests by providing transportation, temporary housing, culturally appropriate food, medical screening and care, and religious accommodations in support of OAW.