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Transition workshops prepare, educate evacuees during OAW

Catherine Ilic, a transition workshop instructor, gives a thumbs up to an evacuee from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Ilic and others are teaching children classroom etiquette because many of them are unfamiliar with an American classroom environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Catherine Ilic, a transition workshop instructor, gives a thumbs up to an evacuee from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Ilic and others are teaching children classroom etiquette because many of them are unfamiliar with an American classroom environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Lindsay Vanbillard, Pod two education program coordinator, writes a list of workshops being taught at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Lindsay and other instructors are teaching evacuees basic lessons in order to ensure they can adjust to culture changes when they move to the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Lindsay Vanbillard, Pod two education program coordinator, writes a list of workshops being taught at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Lindsay and other instructors are teaching evacuees basic lessons in order to ensure they can adjust to culture changes when they move to the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Transition workshop instructors stand in front of their classroom at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Volunteers are teaching workshops to evacuees from Afghanistan of all ages in order to prepare them for their new lives in the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Transition workshop instructors stand in front of their classroom at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Volunteers are teaching workshops to evacuees from Afghanistan of all ages in order to prepare them for their new lives in the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Madison Ilic, a transition class workshop instructor, writes on a white board at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Ilic and others have volunteered their time to teach evacuees from Afghanistan lessons on basic English and classroom etiquette. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

Madison Ilic, a transition class workshop instructor, writes on a white board at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. Ilic and others have volunteered their time to teach evacuees from Afghanistan lessons on basic English and classroom etiquette. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

The Ramstein Air Base Cultural Engagement Team and volunteers are helping evacuees from Afghanistan by setting up workshops during Operation Allies Welcome at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The goal of these workshops is to provide evacuees with some primary knowledge of what they can expect after transitioning to the United States. The CET hopes that these workshops will help evacuees assimilate more smoothly when they move to their next destination.

“The transition workshops were put in place to help evacuees learn some of what they will need to know when they move to the U.S.,” said Maj. Keavy Rake, RAB CET lead. “We want to prepare them for what life will be like in the U.S. and what cultural changes they will need to know.”

Rapidly moving to a new culture can be difficult, but volunteer educators are striving to make this transition as comfortable as possible for the evacuees.

“We are teaching workshops on basic English, like letters, numbers, shapes, colors and basic phrases, and classroom etiquette to our students,” said Lindsay Vanbillard, Pod two education program coordinator. "We will be covering basic lessons on how to raise your hand, listen and not to interrupt when the teacher is talking.”

Many evacuees have had varying levels of access to education in Afghanistan. Vanbillard explained that one particular goal of these workshops is to familiarize the evacuee population with how classrooms operate in the U.S. education system.

“We are teaching the children and adults this because many have not been in a classroom environment before,” Vanbillard said. “We want to help them learn this material so when they get to the U.S., they will be able to communicate with others and adjust to the changes they will experience.”

50 evacuees have already signed up for workshops, but Vanbillard said they are expecting up to 600 students in Pod two alone. Many of the evacuees are excited for the workshops and are willing to lend a helping hand.

“We aren’t the only ones excited about this,” Lindsay said. “Some of the evacuees who are fluent in English have volunteered to teach some of the workshops. They said they are so happy we are doing this for them and can’t wait to get started and help out the other evacuees.”

The U.S. military and its partners are committed to caring for and welcoming evacuees in as many ways as possible. The teams supporting the workshops are constantly working to ensure the evacuees know they are more than just a number, and the military presence at Ramstein is doing everything they can to provide care while evacuees are housed there.

“I think it’s so important that we are doing this,” Rake said. “We are the first face of the U.S. they have seen and we want to make sure it’s a lasting one. Hopefully they will remember their time at Ramstein AB for the rest of their lives and the positive impact we had on them.”

The entire operation continues to impact Airmen and volunteers in powerful ways, and Rake is no exception. For her, it’s about the people who are here and the memories they are making.

“This whole operation has just really shown me how human the military really is,” Rake said. “I’ve been to Afghanistan and I’ve seen a few of the people I worked with over there. I saw them and it made me so happy to learn they made it out and are on the way to the U.S. I am so proud to be part of this and I’ll remember it forever.”