Today the Defense Department began to release pictures from the ongoing evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Below is a selection that we think aptly captures the situation from the point of view of our military.

 

1) Control the Skies

C-17 Globemaster III
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 821st Contingency Response Group board a C-17 Globemaster III on Travis Air Force Base, California, Aug. 14, 2021, before their deployment to support operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. Air Force, in support of the Department of Defense, moved forces into theater to facilitate the safe departure and relocation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigration Visa recipients, and vulnerable Afghan populations from Afghanistan. The 621st CRW deployed Airmen from the 621st and 821st CRGs as well as the 621st Air Mobility Advisor Group to support the mission. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Hoffman/USAF)

An Air Force Contingency Response Group is a specialized, rapid deployment unit that establishes air mobility operations for the Air Force. At Hamid Karzai Airport, they are engaged in a stand-alone, airport Command and Control mission and Air Advisory mission to assist Army and Marine units with the airlift. They are basically handling air traffic control and airport operations.

 

2) ‘Hurry Up and Wait!’

24th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) await a flight at Al Udeied Air Base, Qatar August 17. Marines are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (Photo by 1st Lt. Mark Andries/USMC)

“Hurry up and wait” is a feature of military life. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is one of seven MEUs in the Marine Corps and is an Air-Ground Task Force of about 2,200 personnel assigned to it. The 24th MEU is currently assigned to the USS Iwo Jima in the Gulf of Oman.

 

3) The Old Adage Rings True

Marines in a plane
Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) fly to Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17. Marines are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (Photo by 1st Lt. Mark Andries/USMC)

These Marines are making good use of the old adage, “Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never lie down when you can sleep.” It speaks well of these Marines flying into what could easily become a combat zone surrounded by thousands of the enemy that they are calm enough to catch some sleep.

 

4) Leadership From the Front

General Kenneth F. McKenzie
Commanding General U.S. Central Command Kenneth F. McKenzie tours an evacuation control center at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 17. Marines are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (Photo by 1st Lt. Mark Andries/USMC)

The CENTCOM Commanding General, Kenneth McKenzie arriving at Hamid Karzai Airport is a signal to the troops that their command is behind them all the way. It may also be a signal from the Pentagon to stiffen the resolve of the Biden administration. The death or capture of the head of CENTCOM by the Taliban overrunning the airport would be an unrecoverable political disaster for President Biden. The general is sporting a pair of Marine Corps Issue R.A.T. or Rugged All-terrain boots, which are very good by the way.

 

5) Polar Bears in Afghanistan

The Polar Bears in Afghanistan
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15. U.S. Soldiers and Marines are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Amry)

These troops from the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, are nicknamed the “Polar Bears” and were already in-country and had begun to return to Ft. Drum on rotation. So these guys are probably pretty pissed off that the Taliban interrupted that. The 10th Mountain is probably the most deployed division in the U.S. Army.

6) Knife in Hand

State Department personnel Kabul
A Marine assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) escorts Department of State personnel to be processed for evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15. U.S. Soldiers and Marines are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell)

A Marine in the resting, “Knife Hand” position giving directions to evacuees. You are probably mystified to see Marines without their covers on. They aren’t wearing their lids on the flight line because they tend to end up in jet intakes unless they are clamped down pretty tightly. The armed people in civilian clothes are most likely State Department Security contractors. They form protective details on State Department people traveling inside the country.

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