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USO Europe Provides Quick Response for Algeria Crisis Evacuees

Friday, January 25, 2013

By Eric Brandner 

People know about the USO’s free snacks. They know about the free Internet and comfy chairs during layovers, too. And at this point, they may have heard about our programs.

But they probably don’t know we get calls like this: Get ready – the escaped hostages are on their way.

USO Europe rose to the occasion in the early hours of Jan. 19, when eight evacuees who’d survived the gas plant hostage situation in Amenas, Algeria, touched down in a C-17 Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Two Americans, a Brit, a Norwegian, an Austrian, a Romanian, a Filipino and a Pakistani – along with the remains of some of the 38 people killed in the coordinated terror attack – arrived at the American base a little after 3 a.m. local time Saturday.

USO Kaiserslautern Area Director Konrad Braun was alerted a few hours ahead of their arrival. When the plane touched down, Braun and his wife, Helena, – along with USO Europe Vice President of Operations Walt Murren and USO Deployment Operations Support Manager Sedrick Robinson – had a full array of supplies ready for the evacuees. The four-person USO contingent had everything from drinks and snacks to toiletries and clothing prepared for grab-and-go distribution.

USO Europe also provided free Internet and phone connectivity – thanks to generous donations from TKS – and international phone cards the evacuees could use from the safety of their hotel rooms.

“The [86th Airlift Wing’s] response was one of pure awe and gratitude for our efforts and immediate response to the initial request for support,” Braun said in an email.

It’s the second time in four months USO Europe has provided aid amid an international crisis. Thirty-three evacuees from the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, arrived at Ramstein in a similar manner last September.

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