On August 15, 2021, the Taliban overtook Kabul, Afghanistan, causing thousands of Afghan refugees to flee the country, according to The New York Times. This event forced hundreds of Afghan nationals, including those who have worked with the United States, to evacuate to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.

Upon arrival in Qatar, they were met by members of the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), New Hampshire Army National Guard. These Guard Members assisted with gate security and facilitated the Afghan in-processing, under the oversight of their training noncommissioned officer, Staff Sgt. Michael Avard.

Avard remembers the first day the refugees arrived. At that time, he was unaware of the impact he would have on the global Afghan refugee crisis.

“They came in the middle of the night,” said Avard, thinking back to deployment. “They were like, ‘you have less than 24 hours to move all your stuff.”

Within the next few days, the refugees began staying where Charlie Company once resided.

During the months leading up to August, Avard’s duties included squad leader, training NCO, and performance of administrative tasks. However, Quick Reaction Force noncommissioned officer in charge, and overseeing the in-processing of thousands of refugees, were quickly added to his plate.

“He worked tirelessly over deployment,” said 1st Lt. Landon McBride, executive officer for Charlie Company. “He did anything and everything we needed, and then more.”

McBride joked that Avard is the “workhorse” of the company.

“He will do whatever anybody will ask from him,” added McBride. “He doesn’t expect praise, admiration or thanks.”

The QRF responsibilities included, but were not limited to: responding to conflicts within Camp As Sayliyah, reacting to riots, facilitating movement inside and outside of the camp, and assisting with security to ensure the refugees were kept safe while they were there.

“I think everybody in the platoon did well,” said Avard. “I couldn’t do it without them, they were the ones who did the work.”

Spc. Connor Vaillancourt, an infantryman with the unit, recalls Avard as a wealth of knowledge, with a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.
While in Avard’s squad during deployment, Vaillancourt remembers how, even with limited time and job training, he could explain each of their jobs in a way that allowed them to understand and perform their duties.

“Humble,” said Vaillancourt. “One word for him is humble and he is very motivated.”

”He’ll always look out for you,” added Vaillancourt. “He’s someone you can rely on who will always have your back.”


This piece is written by Staff Sgt. Brianna Passi from the 114th Public Affairs Detachment. Want to feature your story? Send your draft here today.