FORT McCOY, Wis. –
U.S. Army Garrison-Fort McCoy was among many garrisons and units named in an official order published Feb. 1 stating that the garrison has earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its support for Operation Allies Refuge/Operation Allies Welcome (OAR/OAW).
Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Messenger presented the award and related streamer to the garrison during a special town hall session May 25 at Fort McCoy.
“It was an incredibly difficult time for Fort McCoy, and you all performed outstandingly,” Messenger said.
The recognized timeframe for support for the award for Fort McCoy Garrison is Aug. 15, 2021, to April 1, 2022.
“On Aug. 31, 2022, the Secretary of Defense announced that all units involved in the retrograde operation from Afghanistan, Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome will be awarded, based on the president’s direction, the Meritorious Unit Commendation or its equivalent,” the order states.
The Army awards units the Meritorious Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding achievement or service during combat or non-combat, requirements show.
The citation accompanying the commendation award order states:
“During the period of April 1, 2021, to Nov. 7, 2022, the above cited units displayed exceptional meritorious service in support of the Retrograde Operation from Afghanistan, Operation Allies Refuge, Operation Allies Refuge at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, and Operation Allies Welcome. These units conducted the deliberate withdrawal of United States and partner nation forces from Afghanistan, culminating in the largest evacuation of noncombatants in United States military history,” the citation states. “The units were tasked with the withdrawal of military equipment along with United States coalition and contractor personnel concluding the two decades of combat operations in Afghanistan.
“The outstanding planning, coordination, and execution of this theater-level task directly impacted the follow-on mission relief efforts for Afghan nationals who were eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas and facilitating logistical support operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the citation states. “During the last 24 hours, the United States military effectively and meticulously evacuated the final 1,200 personnel utilizing 26 C-17 flights while operating in tandem with coalition forces that flew an additional two flights out of the airport. With the success of 19 flights in the closing hours, there were zero casualties reported, concluding the 20-year war on terrorism one minute before midnight in Kabul.
“Lastly, units comprised of over 10,000 Department of Defense personnel were responsible for the reception, temporary housing, sustainment, and medical support for nearly 80,000 Afghan evacuees,” the citation states. “These units coordinated efforts with local, state, federal, and non-government organizations in order to function as self-contained small cities. Paramount to mission success was the synchronization of inbound flights from overseas to intermediately staging bases to ensure air traffic was coordinated to the correct destinations for what was declared the largest Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in U.S. history.
“The professionalism and readiness of the units led to a seamless transition from the short-term mission of immediate reception, medical, and humanitarian concerns to the longer-term mission of ongoing support and resettlement of the evacuees,” the citation states. “The participating units’ coordination, care, and outstanding performance of duty are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect distinct credit upon themselves and the United States Army.”
Fort McCoy was the seventh of eight U.S.-based Department of Defense installations supporting the resettlement of Afghan nationals, also known as “safe havens,” to complete OAW-related operations, DHS officials stated in their news release. More than 12,600 Afghans stayed at Fort McCoy over the six months.
Angie Salazar, Department of Homeland Security lead for the OAW mission at Fort McCoy, said at the completion of OAW that in all more than 4,000 people from 35 federal, state, local and non-governmental agencies and volunteer organizations participated in the OAW mission at Fort McCoy.
“We literally put up an entire city with a population of approximately 15,000, despite having to overcome unique challenges like language barriers and cultural differences all the while creating our own handbook,” she said.
Then-Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Michael Poss echoed Salazar’s sentiments in recognizing the all-of-government effort and all-of-Fort McCoy effort in a message to the Fort McCoy community. “I would like to thank the Fort McCoy Garrison, tenant organizations, and Team McCoy workforce for your dedication with the Operation Allies Welcome mission, while also continuing to provide outstanding services for our regular training customers. Thanks also to all the Task Force McCoy Soldiers, inter-agency partners, and non-governmental organizations for leading the OAW mission,” he said, adding an additional thank you to “the local communities and public for their unwavering support of all that we do at Fort McCoy. We would not be successful without that support.”