While the U.S. did not get everyone out of Afghanistan, they did get an impressive amount of people out of the country in a short amount of time. In all, 120,000 people and a massive amount of supplies were airlifted out of the country.
Evacuation Of Kabul
In all of United States military history, this was the largest non-combatant evacuation. While it was an impressive feat, it came with a lot of hard work and, for the pilots, pure exhaustion.
“Yeah, the C-17 community is burned out, never been ran this hard,” said one pilot who commented anonymously to Task & Purpose since he was not cleared to talk to media. “Jets broken everywhere. But we got a lot of folks out. Hopefully, they can find better lives in the U.S. Maybe the silver lining to this whole thing.”
Pilots who fly the C-17’s refer to them as the “Moose.” It was also the plane that had 823 passengers, setting the record for most people on a C-17.
“When I look back on why I chose the C-17 in pilot training, it’s this defining moment that comes once in a generation that makes the long stretches of being tired, of being stretched to the limits worth it,” said a second pilot, also speaking anonymously.
Flying in and out of the airspace was nothing new, however. They had been doing it over the last 20 years. However, the conditions of the time frame and amount of people were incredibly unique.
The second pilot said that when you do not know exactly how many people you have, it’s hard to assess how much room you will need for take-off. There is also no room for error.
“The higher you go and the hotter it gets, then yeah, it cuts into your lift capability,” the first pilot said. The flight was rather uncomfortable for many, and the smell was even worse since the plane has one bathroom. The pilot said that many people ended up just going on the floor of the plane.
Capt. Christopher Herbert, Air Mobility Command spokesperson, said that over 230 aircraft were pledged to the mission. It was a mix of C-17s, C-5 Galaxies, KC- 10, KC-135, and KC-46 tankers. There were also some C-130 turboprop transports.
The pilots said there were not just planes. ” To me, it was always a vessel of hope.”