By Senior Airman Senior Airman Elijah M. Dority, AFN Aviano
/ Published November 02, 2021
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Atkins, 31st Medical Group pediatrics noncommissioned officer in charge, pauses for a picture after returning from Operation Allies Welcome, Oct. 23, 2021, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Members of the 31st MDG deployed to Ramstein Air Base to provide medical support for all evacuees as they prepared to move to the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elijah M. Dority)
After the official end of the U.S’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 31st Medical Group at Aviano Air Base supported OAW in Ramstein Air Base by providing medical support to more than 35,000 evacuees, one of the largest reception ports for evacuees in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa as of Aug. 20, 2021.
In support of the OAW efforts, 24 31st MDG Airmen deployed to Ramstein to aid in medical support.
“We were in Ramstein Air Base for about 50 days,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Atkins, 31st MDG pediatrics noncommissioned officer in charge. “The OAW was basically what we were supporting the whole time there, and that was just medical coverage for the travelers. We had a lot of involvement with the vaccine lines and medical coverage. There were some other missions while we were out there, basically wherever the 86th Airlift Wing needed us, Aviano was there to answer”.
This mission resulted in more than 50 days totaling approximately 18,475 man-hours from the 31st MDG.
“They were all broken up into what we called pods of anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Laura Malchodi, 31st MDG pediatrician. “We had a day team and a night team. We got to staff our very own medical clinic for approximately 2,500 people on average. What was wonderful about that was we really got to know the people that we were helping and so we could see the people over multiple days.”
Patients frequently went to the medical team for care and through that process the team saw the progression of healing. Children and patients practiced English with the medical members and created special connections with the travelers, said Malchodi.
Malchodi went on to say that it was easy to see the impact that Aviano and other USAFE bases had in helping Ramstein care for the evacuees that were housed with them.
“One of the coolest things about being a part of this mission, was one of the reasons why I joined the Air Force in the first place,” said Malchodi. “Which is to be a part of something that's bigger than myself.”
Not only did Aviano help out, but Royal Air Force Lakenheath also supported the mission.
“It was so cool to see so many people come together for one common cause and then to be able to complete that mission,” said Malchodi. “It was just an incredible experience and really what the Air Force is all about.”