Looking back on Op AEGIS: A Platoon Warrant Officer’s Story

November 22, 2022 - Defence Stories


Canadian citizens and eligible Afghan nationals, under the care and control of CANSOFCOM personnel, wait alongside the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan to board a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster, during Operation AEGIS, August 2021.

It has been over a year since Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) aircraft transported evacuees out of Afghanistan. Operation AEGIS (Op AEGIS) was the CAF’s contribution to Canada’s efforts to evacuate Afghans with significant and/or enduring relationships with the Government of Canada, along with their accompanying family members.

A Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) Platoon Warrant Officer shares their experience:

“On Op AEGIS, I was a Platoon Warrant Officer with the CANSOFCOM high readiness ground force. Our platoon deployed on short notice with a variety of possible tasks in an uncertain security environment. Once we landed in Kuwait, we quickly got up to speed on the challenges and began planning for a variety of tasks that included force protection, the screening of Canadian citizens and eligible national Afghans, and the recovery of those from the gates surrounding the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Shortly after landing at the Kabul airport, it became clear to everyone that the nature and complexity of the task was like nothing anyone had ever experienced before. There were rows and rows of coalition planes with engines turning, waiting for evacuees to be loaded and Afghan nationals waiting to be processed or board the next available flight out of Afghanistan. Most of these families were suffering from dehydration, hunger, and pure exhaustion from the chaos they had just survived.


A member of CANSOFCOM stands with an evacuee at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, during Operation AEGIS, August 2021.

We quickly occupied a piece of real estate within the airport grounds that CAF members would call home. This was an open area with little built-up infrastructure, but within concrete walls that provided enough cover from the city and the threat of direct fire. We then dropped our gear and collectively planned on how we would reach and find the Canadian citizens and immigration applicants. We also made plans on how we would provide them with safety and real-life support as they waited to be evacuated out of Afghanistan onboard the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-177 Globemaster flights.

Within a few hours, the team had completed reconnaissance of the gates and surrounding areas and had set-up an initial screening and housing area with whatever materials we could get our hands on. We had vehicles ready to move personnel and evacuees to and from the airport gates. What we did not expect was that we would be doing this for the next seven days for 20 hours a day, sleeping when and where we could.

Every day consisted of a team working in the screening and housing area, and a few teams working at the gates to help Canadian citizens and immigration applicants get through the crowds that were being watched by Taliban-led security. My role was to ensure the teams had the required resources and equipment to maintain the screening area/housing, and that they had everything they needed as they looked for Canadians at the gates. I was also responsible for moving and loading evacuees onto airplanes.

At one of the airport gates, our team members took into our care a teenaged boy from a crowd of people who said he was Canadian. He had no documentation but claimed that his extended family member had flown to safety with the help of CAF elements. He also told us that the Taliban had recently killed his close family.

The decision was made to bring him back to our safe zone until we could further understand his situation. No matter what the outcome, we had already taken the decision as a team that we would find a way to get this boy to safety. The boy spent the next 48 hours close to our screening desk where we could take care of him. He ate with us, he slept on a foam pad next to us, and he would share stories with team members as they took a few minutes to rest. He acted with such calm and waited so patiently for his turn and yet, he asked for nothing in return.

Soon after receiving word from Global Affairs Canada that he was approved to be flown out, the boy was given the good news. He had the biggest smile and kept saying to me “thank you mister, thank you.” That night, after having registered all 550 people on the flight, the boy and I led the group to the tarmac together, where his RCAF CC-177 Globemaster waited for him and the others. The boy was introduced to one of the on-board medics and we assured him that someone would always be with him until he reached Kuwait and was re-united with his extended family.

For the next few days, we kept working on a rotation that included screening and providing security, while always searching for more people at the gates who we could potentially evacuate. We worked and searched hard for Canadian citizens and immigration applicants until the last possible moment, literally to the last opportunity we had before the entire Coalition was scheduled to depart.”

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