Reservists help deliver babies during Afghanistan evacuations

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christina Judd
  • Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters

Two separate Air Force Reserve Command airlift wings successfully evacuated hundreds of Americans and allies during the early days of the Afghanistan evacuation operation … and each landed with one more passenger than was manifested.

The 315th Airlift Wing from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and the 445th AW from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, were both mobilized in support of Operation Allies Refuge alongside other U.S. and allied military organizations after the fall of Kabul Aug. 15.

On Aug. 23, a Reserve crew from the 315th AW’s 701st Airlift Squadron was waiting to land its C-17 Globemaster III at a Middle East staging area when crew members became concerned about a female passenger.

Tech. Sgt. Leah Schmidt, 701st AS loadmaster, and Capt. Leslie Green, 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, used their professional Air Force training to help deliver a baby girl. Green said it was her first full delivery, but it wasn’t as hard as she expected.

“The hard part, she did by herself,” Green said of the Afghan woman whose healthy daughter arrived minutes before landing. “The baby was perfect. She was a little bit small, definitely didn’t make it to full term, but she came out crying. She seemed to be doing well in this world.”

A couple of days prior, on Aug. 21, another baby girl was born in the cargo bay of a 445th AW C-17 on its way from Qatar to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, while a group of female evacuees held up their shawls to protect the Afghan mother’s privacy. The baby girl’s parents named their daughter “Reach,” after the aircraft’s call sign (Reach 828).

Reach 828 had departed from an intermediate staging area in Qatar with a planeload of evacuees when the Afghan mother went into labor and began having complications.

“The aircraft commander decided to descend in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilize and save the mother’s life,” Air Mobility Command said via Twitter.

“So that child’s name will forever be Reach,” Gen. Tod Wolters, U.S. European Command commander, said during a news briefing Aug. 25. “And as you can well imagine, being an Air Force fighter pilot, it’s my dream to watch that young child called Reach grow up and be a U.S. citizen and fly United States Air Force fighters in our Air Force.”

Defense officials did not provide identifying details about the family due to safety concerns, and the mother’s face was digitally obscured in photos the Air Force shared of Airmen with the 86th Medical Group at Ramstein assisting her off the aircraft.

“I’ve witnessed the rapid and selfless response of our Citizen Airmen to world events repeatedly over the years, but am no less inspired each time,” said Col. Michael Baker, 445th AW Operations Group commander.

Both Reserve wings assisted in the evacuation of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other vulnerable Afghans, transporting them out of Afghanistan as quickly and safely as possible in one of the largest airlift missions in history. Several more babies have been born while evacuees continue to leave the country.

Evacuees are being taken to temporary safe haven locations across Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, four military installations in the United States, as well as Washington Dulles International Airport, are also now receiving evacuees, according to Pentagon officials.

(Judd was temporarily assigned to the Headquarters AFRC public affairs office when she wrote this article.)