This past Thursday, Holloman Air force Base provided a briefing and tour of the Afghan refugee operations and the location on base where they will be housed. This is truly a massive endeavor. The size and scope of this initiative, the structures that have been built, and the time frame in which this has been accomplished is nothing short of astounding.

Holloman was chosen as one of the eight temporary processing sites in the United States for three reasons. First, the installation has a runway configuration optimized for this effort. Second, Holloman is the third-largest base by land size in the Air Force. Finally, Holloman hosts the 635th Material Maintenance Group (known as BEAR Base) which stores and maintains equipment critical to this effort.

U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load passengers aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 24, 2021. Picture taken August 24, 2021. U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen / Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

At this time, the expectation is there will be no more than 5,000 Afghan personnel on the base at any given time. The personnel arriving at Holloman will be primarily children and families. The Afghan housing facilities consist of several 30 by 90-meter tents, which can be sectioned off into family units with separate facilities for those testing COVID positive. These are surrounded by dining facilities, mobile shower facilities, laundry, and even an entire hospital, complete with surgeons, family care specialists, dentists, and OBGYN doctors. The area selected for the settlement is secluded and there are absolutely no security concerns based on the procedures Holloman has established.

The estimated time an Afghan family will reside at Holloman is on the order of weeks, not months. Those arriving at Holloman have already been screened and vetted multiple times as they have traveled from overseas to their initial stop in the U.S. and finally, reach the base. Upon arrival, individuals are escorted into a facility where they receive a complete medical evaluation. Over the next few weeks, each will undergo additional background checks, fingerprinting, biometric data collection, additional health examinations, and vaccinations to meet the criteria necessary for resettlement across America. At all levels, Afghan refugees are referred to and treated as guests. Relocation to communities across the United States will occur only after the procedures outlined above have been completed. Resettlement of Afghan refugees will be to those locations where Afghan populations already exist and to communities that have the resources and desire to host these individuals.

To support this historic undertaking, the 49th Wing constructed a tent city to house the more than 800 U.S. military members that have been deployed to Holloman to assist with the process. Although the tent city has showers, laundry, and dining facilities, we will be encouraging local Food Trucks to get the health certifications necessary to access the installation to expose these visiting Air Force personnel to some of our local New Mexico cuisines.

Donations of baby formula, clothes, health care products, and toys have been flowing onto Holloman.
A phone bank with six lines has been installed to cover the volume of calls. Seeing the facility where sorting, boxing, and then delivering these supplies to the Afghan recipients, handled by military personnel as volunteers and their spouses, is to be reminded that there is no bigger heart than the one that beats in America’s chest. Contributions can be made locally through Love Inc. at 575-439-5683.

Our special thanks to the command team of the 49th Wing, Colonel Ryan Keeney, Vice Commander Nicholas Pederson, and Chief Master Sergeant Thomas Temple, who provided us the opportunity to see this operation first hand. Without seeing it with your own eyes, it would be impossible to grasp what the men and women of Holloman Air Force Base have accomplished. They attacked this mission with a passion, overcoming the impossible by improvisation and teamwork. So here’s to the men and women of Holloman Air Force Base, and this effort demonstrates the reason we enjoy the world’s greatest military machine.

GB Oliver
Executive Director
Alamogordo Center of Commerce