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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 16, 2022

Coast Guard members demonstrate character, commitment assisting refugees

By Nicole Bertrand, MyCG writer

Over 300 United States Coast Guard members have demonstrated their character and leadership by supporting Operation Allies Welcome (OAW). In August, President Joe Biden directed Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to have the U.S. Department of Homeland Security serve as the lead federal agency coordinating ongoing efforts across the federal government to resettle vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States. Coast Guard members have been a crucial part of the Unified Command Group (UCG), an organization that helps coordinate the whole-of-society effort, to include dozens of federal agencies and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). 

At the height of the operation, OAW was comprised of eight Department of Defense (DOD) installations, also known as “safe havens”, where Afghan evacuees were temporarily housed. Service members provided critical support to these safe havens while Afghan evacuees completed immigration processing and received healthcare and vaccinations – which included measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), varicella, polio, and COVID-19. To date, there are two remaining safe havens temporarily housing Afghan evacuees. 

Lt.j.g. Mackenzie Hannon, a reservist from Sector Lake Michigan, plays a pivotal role in the operation. Hannon recently volunteered to take orders in support of OAW. As a situation unit leader assigned at Fort McCoy safe haven in Wisconsin, Hannon orchestrates the distribution of donations, including clothes and toiletries, to Afghan evacuees at the safe haven. Hannon also collects daily updates from the various agencies and NGO’s at Fort McCoy and prepares reports which go to the Unified Command Group (UCG) at DHS headquarters.

Capt. Michael Paradise, deputy director of Emergency Management (CG-5RI) at Coast Guard headquarters, has been integral to the initiative. “Operation Allies Welcome has been the most rewarding contingency event I have supported in my career. It is a new hope for all of the evacuees from Afghanistan, where, for the first time, they will know what it is to be free as they start their new chapter in life here in the United States,” said Capt. Michael Paradise. 
As of Feb. 2, the United States has welcomed more than 76,000 Afghans to the United States through Operation Allies Welcome, providing them with support and assistance as they begin their new lives in America – Coast Guard service members will continue to support and welcome additional qualifying Afghans over the coming weeks and months.