One year later: Reflecting on Operation Allies Welcome

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OTERO COUNTY, N.M. — It’s been more than a year since Holloman Air Force Base was chosen to be part of one of the largest refugee rescue missions in U.S. history.

KOB 4 sat down with one of Holloman’s top officials to reflect on its part in that mission.

“We have a large runway here with our flying training mission,” said Col. Nick Peterson, the vice commander at Holloman. “So they were able to bring Afghans right in here. But we also had plenty of space on the installation that had access to things like power and water, that we need to create a safe and secure environment for the Afghans.”

He also said he’s extremely proud of his airmen for taking the challenge head-on. Peterson said many airmen volunteered after work to help build a tent city.

“The kids playing and that that what struck me the most, you know, when I would go out to the camp, or I’d go out with our airmen out to the village, and you would see kids, and the minute you got out of your vehicle or got off the bus, that they would run up,” he said. “And like you mentioned, a soccer ball, a toy airplane, a set of the bubbles that you blow with the little ones and stuff like that. They all just wanted to play and be happy that they were here in a safe and secure location.”

Peterson said part of the military mission is being ready to answer the nation’s call, but this mission was so much more than that.

“That is an overwhelming experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their, their time, not only military, but afterwards, I know, I will carry it with me. And I’ll remember what we did here at home and for the rest of my career and beyond,” he said.

Overall, Holloman hosted over 7,000 refugees for five months.