Pilot reflects on refugees’ ‘sense of relief’ as he brought them to U.S.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - “Some would look at me and smile. I couldn’t speak their language and they couldn’t speak mine, but they looked at me and they know that we are helping them out. It was a great feeling,” said Arline Pilot Chris Janusiewicz.
Planes have been coming to U.S. soil with thousands of Afghan refugees who were evacuated from Kabul. One of those pilots that helped with this major mission returned to Austin Straubel International Airport Wednesday morning.
“I was an Air Force pilot and I flew with three different aircraft,” said Janusiewicz.
After 20 years as an airman and hundreds of flights under his wings, Janusiewicz now flies for a charter company that focuses on military charters.
“Getting troops from here, to overseas and back safely and efficiently,” said Janusiewicz. “It’s more effective for airliners to do it because we have more seats than your typical military plane.”
His last two-week mission was in the Pacific, but the images coming out of Kabul made him extend it.
“I was supposed to come back last week, but I volunteered for more time to help out.” said Janusiewicz. “I know that these people are in danger over there. They’ve been suppressed by the Taliban for years and years and years, so the more people we can get out the better.”
According to the Pentagon, more than 123,000 Americans and Afghan allies have been evacuated out of Afghanistan and taken to safer places by the U.S Air Force.
“So the main credit goes to the Air Force and the coalition forces, they are the ones in charge of getting the people out of Afghanistan to surrounding much safer cities,” said Janusiewicz. “Then my company, along with other companies like mine, get the people from those Safe Cities back to the States. Again, the Air Force gets all the credit for getting people out of Kabul.”
Janusiewicz said as he was running through routine checklists before takeoff, 215 Afghan refugees boarded the plane. He said that’s when he realized the refugees are putting their future in his hands.
“They had very little belongings. This is the least amount of cargo I’ve ever seen on a flight in my career because they have the shirts on their back and maybe a couple bags,” said Janusiewicz.
Janusiewicz was one of four pilots on the plane so during his break mid-flight, he was able to walk around the cabin.
“To see these people, families and babies in their Afghanistan wardrobe speaking Arabic was very moving to know that I was a part of this history, of getting these people to a safe area,” said Janusiewicz.
When the plan arrived at Dulles airport, 215 Afghan refugees were finally on American soil.
“I can see the sense of relief in some of their eyes,” said Janusiewicz. “I just looked at some of these people knowing that maybe some of these people will not be on the earth in a couple of weeks, couple months, if it wasn’t for the evacuation process, so I feel very proud to be an American pilot to be able to do this.”
Janusiewicz said he’s home for a bit, but will likely be doing more of these missions in the coming weeks,
“We still had to get refugees to the states, so that’s going to be going on another couple months, so I will most likely be doing some more of these type missions in the next 8 weeks,” said Janusiewicz.
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