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Afghan evacuees begin arriving at Camp Atterbury

Camp Atterbury will house approximately 5,000 people.

EDINBURGH, Ind. — Camp Atterbury has been authorized to host thousands of Afghan evacuees. The Secretary of Defense approved the site as part of Operation Allies Refuge.

The site will provide temporary housing for Afghan special immigration applicants, their families and other at-risk individuals. 

Evacuees began arriving in Indiana Thursday, Sept. 2 and will continue arriving in groups of 1,000 at a time.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Camp Atterbury will house up to 5,000 people for a matter of weeks until they are placed in more permanent housing. 

"As Hoosiers, we are proud to do our part and provide a temporary home for Afghan evacuees who have supported this nation," Holcomb said. "Our federal partners are taking necessary and appropriate steps to establish that there is a smooth process to allow these men, women and children to quickly find their permanent home across the United States. I have faith in the Indiana National Guard's ability to support this federal mission."

Credit: Indiana National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Lowry, released
Afghan evacuees arrive in Indianapolis Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, as 1st Cavalry Division soldiers watch.

Active duty and National Guard service members at Camp Atterbury will provide housing, medical needs, logistics and transportation. 

Evacuees will first be screened in Germany, Spain and Italy. Once they pass a security screening, they will transition to U.S. That is expected to begin in the coming days.

Credit: Indiana National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Lowry, released
Afghan evacuees arrive in Indianapolis Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, as 1st Cavalry Division soldiers watch.

In the U.S., evacuees will be vetted again by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of State, FBI and Counter Terrorism.

When evacuees are brought to Atterbury, they will be placed in a 14-day medical quarantine. They will be assessed for signs of illness, including COVID-19, and treated as needed. That can include them being vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Our Hoosier Guardsmen are honored to join our fellow Americans to help, assist and host Afghans who played an integral part and helped us for nearly 20 years," said Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, Indiana National Guard adjutant general. "We also look forward to working alongside our active-duty counterparts, and members of national, state, and local agencies as we support the Department of Homeland Security mission."

RELATED: Local group ready to help Afghan evacuees settle in Indiana

Around 800 soldiers from Ft. Hood, including military police and medical support, will assist, along with medical support from Ft. Knox. There will also be federal contractors to help fill any gaps with security or medical needs.

Starting a new life in a foreign land can be hard and many of the evacuees may need a lot of support. They will rely on resettlement agencies to help find health care, schools and even navigate the city .

Governor Eric Holcomb said the state is open to resettling families here 

"This is a mission, time sensitive. It's a process and it is temporary until it becomes not," said Holcomb

So far, no local agencies have confirmed to us if they're among the groups helping resettle evacuees.

To find answers about how quickly this process works, we need to look no further than to our neighbors to the south. So far, Kentucky's resettlement agencies have agreed to help as many as 775 evacuees.

Two families who landed in the last week have already been resettled.

Here at home, there are plenty of programs to help evacuees settle into a new home, including medical and cash assistance, English language classes and employment assistance. They're offered with the goal that evacuees become self-sufficient within 120 days of arrival.

"We'll make sure as they determine what lane they want to get in and where they want to go that hopefully our Hoosier hospitality shines through and it's attractive," said Holcomb.

Resettlement agencies will work extensively with evacuees at Camp Atterbury to help them transition into the community and their new home in the U.S. That process is expected to take place within days or a few weeks of an evacuee coming out of the 14-day quarantine.

There will be no cost to the state of Indiana, as the process is part of a federal mission.

The Indiana National Guard is working on setting up a system for donations to help evacuees. Donors can call (317) 247-3559 and give their information to be contacted once a donation system is established.

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