Updated: Aug 31, 2021
In the summer of 2007 I met the first Air Force Academy exchange student from Afghanistan. His name was Abdul. He was anxious, and excited to come to America. He was excited to be studying at the United States Air Force Academy. He was a quiet, and reserved man; always with a smile on his face. We crossed paths during the summer directly after our Doolie (freshman) year's notorious training weekend known as "Recognition". Recognition is the time in the late spring of the Air Force Academy when the upper-classes fully recognize the lower class as part of the Cadet wing.
Together, we completed an Air Force Academy training exercise known as Global Engagement. During that time, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, convoy operations and improvised explosive devices were a new threat. Likewise, the Air Force Academy introduced its newest sophomores to this type of training for the Middle East in a possible high threat environment that some of us may experience in the near future during a deployment.
Although we did not speak much after graduation, Abdul worked as a translator for U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan throughout the war after he returned to his homeland after graduation in 2010. Eventually, he earned his U.S. Citizenship, and eventually made his way to Washington D.C. to continue to serve the U.S. Government.
Even though its been a decade, I always admired Adbul for his dedication to his homeland, and the new found home here in the United States of America. Throughout the 20 year war in Afghanistan, I cannot imagine the pain and destruction Abdul must have experienced during this time.
Ironically, when the recent draw-down of the war began, we connected again on the USAFA Alumni-Networking Facebook page. He was concerned about his mother and two sisters, whom still remained in his homeland of Afghanistan. I privately messaged him, and asked what I could do to help. After some discussion, I knew that I had some contacts within the Air Force Special Operations, and Army Special Operations Community still. So, I started making some cold phone calls, sending some e-mails, and asking for help. Soon enough my inbox was full of messages, and my cellphone started buzzing with text messages. Without revealing the actual process and contacts of how this occurred, soon enough, we were able to evacuate Adbul's family from Afghanistan safely before the deadline of August 31st.
It was an amazing feeling knowing that the community of the Air Force Academy Alumni group, and all the friends I've made throughout the services over the years, were able to work together to help one of our fellow classmates. Soon afterwards, I connected with more of these people and we evacuated an additional 35 people from the country of Afghanistan as part of the #DigitalDunkirk movement. The Digital Dunkirk movement has been a group of active duty members, veterans, and civilian volunteers that became dedicated to helping our allies safely evacuate Afghanistan.
This is a lesson to say that there are many people in the graduate community who are willing to do the right thing when necessary. I hope that this is a lesson that there is hope for our Air Force Academy, and that we can hold our leaders accountable. When our leaders fail, those who are willing to do the right thing will step up and get the job done. We need a more honest Air Force Academy, a more honest military, and a more honest government to prevent another humanitarian crisis that we are seeing now in Afghanistan.