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Americans fleeing conflict in Lebanon arrive at McGuire

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kelly White
  • 305th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Team McGuire is taking an active role in the United States’ effort to evacuate American citizens from the conflict in Lebanon, as C-17s from McGuire, Charleston AFB, S.C., and McChord AFB, Wash., continue to land here bringing evacuees safely back to U.S. soil.

“We are glad to be able to help our fellow Americans leave Lebanon and return safely to their homes here in the United States,” said Col. Bill Spacy, 305th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.

McGuire personnel have been preparing for more than a week to participate in the repatriation of American citizens seeking passage out of Lebanon, said the colonel. “Our top priority is their welfare and security, and our dedicated mobility professionals are proud to be involved in this vital mission.”

The first group of 102 evacuees, under the State Department-led program, arrived at McGuire Saturday. Many were women and children who started their journey aboard Navy ships from Lebanon to Cypress, where they boarded C-17s ultimately bound for McGuire.

“As passengers arrive here, we’re helping them get medical assistance if needed, processing them through customs and immigration, giving them something to eat and helping them secure follow-on travel to their final U.S. destination,” said Maj. Michael Godwin, 305th Mission Support Squadron commander. “It’s a thrilling yet humbling experience to come together to help other people in this way.”

One evacuee, 18-year-old Andrew Khoury, his parents and two brothers were in Lebanon on a family vacation. “It was getting pretty dangerous,” Mr. Khoury said. “The worst part was in the very beginning. We were afraid we wouldn’t get a spot on the boat. There were huge crowds, and everyone was fighting each other,” he added.

“We want to thank our troops and everyone for all they did,” added Mr. Khoury. “They got us home safely.” The Khoury family started their travel home Thursday and expected to arrive at their home in Houston, Sunday.

These U.S. citizens were caught in a war zone, said Daniel Schneider of the Department of Health and Human Services. This is one of the first times for a large group repatriation effort like this, he said, “and the U.S. military has done a wonderful job through the entire effort.”

As of Monday, a total of 12 C-17s had transported more than 1,200 evacuees to process through the base. Flights are expected throughout the week, until all Americans fleeing Lebanon are safely returned to their homes.