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A little boy steps off the bus at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, after arriving on a U.S. military flight from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The boy was one of hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan who were to spend the night Friday at Ramstein, which is prepared to temporarily support up to 5,000 people as they move to the United States and elsewhere after fleeing the Taliban.
A little boy steps off the bus at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, after arriving on a U.S. military flight from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The boy was one of hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan who were to spend the night Friday at Ramstein, which is prepared to temporarily support up to 5,000 people as they move to the United States and elsewhere after fleeing the Taliban. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan, including many families with children, arrived at Ramstein Air Base from Qatar on Friday after a harrowing journey fleeing the Taliban’s takeover.

The first of three aircraft carrying the evacuees — two U.S. Air Force C-17s and a British commercial jet — flew over Kaiserslautern at around 7 p.m. on the approach to Ramstein’s airfield.

Ramstein has the capacity to support up to 5,000 evacuees, and more are expected in the coming days, base officials said. The State Department will determine where the evacuees will go next, but most are expected to travel to the United States in the next few days once they are vetted and medically cleared, officials said.

Evacuees seem to be in “good condition,” said Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, the 86th Airlift Wing commander. “They look exhausted. They look very tired” and are traveling with “very little,” he said. “But seeing the children and the families coming off with huge smiles, it warms your heart.”

A woman holding a small child steps off the bus at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, after arriving on a U.S. military flight from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Most of the hundreds of evacuees who arrived were Afghans who had fled the Taliban Airmen and volunteers handed evacuees water before they underwent medical checks.
A woman holding a small child steps off the bus at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, after arriving on a U.S. military flight from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Most of the hundreds of evacuees who arrived were Afghans who had fled the Taliban Airmen and volunteers handed evacuees water before they underwent medical checks. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Many of the hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan who arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, were families with children.
Many of the hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan who arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, were families with children. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

An Air Force imam, a Muslim chaplain assigned to Ramstein, was one of the first to greet evacuees, officials said.

He tells them “they are on an Air Force base in Germany” and that “we’re going to take care of you, this is a safe place,” said Lt. Col. Will Powell, an 86th Airlift Wing spokesman.

Airmen and volunteers from the Red Cross and the USO were on hand to deliver bottles of water to the evacuees as they stepped from a bus that picked them up on the flight line. Evacuees, most of whom were wearing face masks, received a medical screening due to coronavirus concerns, officials said.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft carrying evacuees from Afghanistan lands at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft carrying evacuees from Afghanistan lands at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
An airman directs a bus carrying evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. Hundreds of evacuees began arriving Friday from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, after fleeing the Taliban.
An airman directs a bus carrying evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. Hundreds of evacuees began arriving Friday from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, after fleeing the Taliban. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, speaks to reporters on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, about how Ramstein is prepared to temporarily support thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan. Hundreds arrived Friday night.
Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, speaks to reporters on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, about how Ramstein is prepared to temporarily support thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan. Hundreds arrived Friday night. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The vetting process includes scanning their information against several databases to determine whether they’re “friend or foe,” Olson said. Keeping the base community secure as well as the evacuees safe is a top priority, he said.

Evacuees were to sleep on military cots set up in hangars and large tents erected on the flight line. Portable toilets and showers were also brought in.

More flights bringing evacuees were expected throughout the night and in the coming days, Olson said.

So far, most of the evacuees are Afghans, Olson said. The first flights to arrive Friday departed from Qatar but evacuees will be arriving from “a myriad of places,” Olson said.

The base also expects to receive American and German citizens who have evacuated Afghanistan, Olson said.

“Right now we’re expecting about 5,000 but we will surge according to the needs (so) that we can help and support as many people as we can,” he said.

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