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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — More than 1,800 American evacuees from Lebanon have transited from Cyprus through Ramstein Air Base on their way back to the States, said Gen. Tom Hobbins, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

Hobbins and William R. Timken, U.S. ambassador to Germany, addressed media Tuesday afternoon near the base’s flightline about the humanitarian mission.

Since Saturday, a total of 19 C-17 flights from Cyprus have delivered the U.S. citizens, who are spending a few hours in the Ramstein passenger terminal before departing for the States.

It warmed Hobbins’ heart to see the organizations, including USAFE, the Army, United Service Organizations, the American Red Cross, the State Department and Army and Air Force Exchange Service, working together in the terminal to assist the evacuees, he said.

At the passenger terminal Tuesday morning, Hobbins met a woman and her two teenage children who were on their way back to Boston.

“It made me feel really great when she said she’s traveled a lot through many parts of the world but never has she had the top-notch service of the United States Air Force to get her from one place to the other,” Hobbins said.

“I was very proud of that, very proud of the young men and women and our civilians who make up our Air Force team.”

Timken took the opportunity to express President Bush’s thanks to Germany for being a strong partner in the operation. On behalf of the president, Timken thanked the military, specifically the Air Force, Hobbins and the airmen, for their role in the mission.

“If you’re a civilian, you don’t really understand some of the logistical difficulties of putting together an operation like this over a long period of time, but to do it in a few days is extraordinary,” Timken said.

“I think it shows not only the capability of the people in our armed forces but also their interest in their fellow American citizens.”

About 1,200 airmen from Ramstein have been involved in the mission in some form since it began Saturday.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Ward, 435th Services Squadron commander, said his troops prepared roughly 2,000 hot meals and at least another 2,000 boxed meals for evacuees to eat on their flights, along with providing water and snacks.

The squadron went so far as to provide culturally sensitive meals for Muslims in the evacuee group and placed labels by items that contained pork. Even a birthday cake complete with a candle was provided for a child who turned 3 during his stay at Ramstein.


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