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News | March 10, 2022

12 Days in August: Vermont Guardsmen reflect on Operation Allies Refuge

By Joshua Cohen Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

When Spc. Ryan Moon and Spc. Riley Benoit deployed to Southwest Asia with Task Force Avalanche, the mortarmen did not anticipate a 12-day mission in Afghanistan, taking part in the evacuation of thousands as part of Operation Allies Refuge.

Orders to move to Afghanistan came suddenly. When the call came, the mortar platoon was conducting live-fire training in Southwest Asia.

“When word came down the chain that everything needs to be packed up,” Moon explained.

Benoit said the possibility of our platoon being sent to Kabul was there, but they never imagined it would ever happen and there was a lot of anticipation about it throughout the unit.

“Fifteen Soldiers went from our platoon, two medics and additional mortarmen from Colorado, Maine, and Rhode Island units departed for Afghanistan,” Moon said about what happened on August 17th.

Moon said Soldiers prepared their gear before official orders came down.

“Across the board, everyone brought their sleep system, a couple of sets of uniforms, several MREs, and individual weapons,” said Moon.

“We departed our base in a C-17 transport aircraft packed full of gear and troops for the four-hour flight,” Benoit added.

Arriving at Kabul International Airport early the following day on Aug. 18, Moon said the Soldiers spent the night in an airplane hangar that they would call home for the next two weeks.

The next day mortarmen took up defensive positions in another airport building and began to patrol their sector of the airport.

“We patrolled the same streets and northern section of the airport’s perimeter wall for the remainder of our time in Kabul,” said Benoit.

“Some days you would be in a tower on the wall and could see daily life in the city, other days you were walking some of the inner roads of the airport among the refugees.”

The Guardsmen had additional duties throughout their time providing security for the withdrawal.

“We’d go and clear buildings of weapons, ammunition, and other sensitive items so they would not fall into Taliban hands,” Moon said.

According to Moon, an average day consisted of waking up at about 1 a.m., they would relieve the unit at their section of the wall, provide security until around 9 a.m., and they would patrol in half-hour shifts.

After twelve days at Kabul Airport, U.S. Military forces departed Afghanistan on Aug. 29.

“I never expected this sort of mission in my military career, I'm glad I was able to help secure safe passage for some of those who have helped us over the past two decades and their families, I believe we performed our duties well and were good ambassadors of our country and our unit,” Moon remarked.

Benoit shared a similar somber moment as Moon when the Task Force Avalanche Soldiers departed the country.

”There was a lot of emotions getting on the C-17 to fly out of Afghanistan, knowing that it was the last day of a war for us, that has been going on for most of my life was a very humbling experience, I will never forget how it felt when the plane left the ground.”

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