U.S. service members have helped evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan.
“We’re bringing them back as fast as we can, from Kabul to various locations around the world,” said Lt. Colonel Austin Street.
Street is commander for the 21st airlift squadron at Travis Air Force Base. He is currently in Qatar.
“We will help them load the plane we tell them before we start loading that we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to take them back with us and help them to be able to leave Afghanistan,” he said.
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Travis Air Force Base shared video of them departing for the mission on August 16. Street is seen in the video on the left seat of the cockpit.
Street told NBC Bay Area Saturday that he completed five evacuation flights since then, that included U.S. citizens, allies and qualified Afghan evacuees.
Each flight on the C-17 moves about 400 evacuees. He said that he has heard some of evacuees' stories.
“The most important thing is we want them to know is that we’re grateful to help them out. And we want to make sure they’re treated with dignity and respect,” Street told NBC Bay Area.
Street recalled one moment after they offloaded passengers and were cleaning up the aircraft for the next crew to take it back to Kabul.
“We found a little pair of shoes and they were made out of cardboard and duct tape," he said. "My load master looked at me and said, ‘That’s sad.’ I said ‘No, that’s inspiring some family made that a pair of shoes for their kid. So, that could walk to freedom.' That really touched our crew and that’s what we’re really hoping to accomplish, to provide an opportunity for freedom for these families.”
Street said that he was not in Afghanistan when the deadly attack occurred at Kabul Airport earlier this week, but it changed his mission.
“We went from a normal mission to fly to Kabul to an air medical evacuation,” he said. “They brought me a team of medical professionals that do air medical evacuation and load them on our aircraft and flew them into Kabul.”
And for those finally getting their chance to leave, Travis Air Force Base shared those pictures. When they land, Street said will he try to reach out to them again.
“I personally try to shake hands with people and wish them well as they load the busses,” Street said.