Afghanistan Operations - Operation Aetos Dios

On August 19th, 2021, Omphalos, in conjunction with other organizations, launched a fully operational command center (Commercial Task Force Joint Operations Center) COMTF JOC in Washington, D.C., providing 24/7 logistics support, operational planning, and leadership. The COMTF JOC effort serviced all other volunteer organizations for operational support and critical case movements. For 26 days and counting members of this task force spent countless hours fielding and streamlining calls, texts, emails, and other forms of outreach from frantic American citizens and Afghan allies as they sought a way to preserve the lives of themselves and their family members. Each call requires a different response, one that was immediately apparent based on previous knowledge or one that would require communication with other members in the D.C. task force room, or communication with one or more of the many boots on the ground contacts. The flexibility, quick thinking, and clear communication needed to solve a single life and death situation from across the world was a feat in and of itself; however, this group of dedicated individuals did so hundreds of times over! One individual, Peter D., Omphalos’ CEO, fielded Thousands of communications over a course of 100’s hours. To put this in perspective, Peter was one of up to 30 individuals engaging in this work as part of this task force.

  • Over 30,000 total dispatched requests for help to date
  • Over 6,000 safely evacuated, including over 1,000 American Citizens
  • Over 10,000 in safe care situations

Additionally, we have worked closely with partner agencies, such as SOAA, to assess the needs particular to Afghan child refugees and to provide refugee support in Qatar, Albania, and Germany. In Ramstein, the Army and Air Force share a planning tent, working with each other as one team 24 hours a day to help create and maintain a safe environment to expediently process and care for the evacuees. Military members and volunteers interact with the refugees, playing soccer, volleyball and sharing conversations. A transitional object drive, headed by Omphalos’ Clinical Director, Dr. Ashley E. Poklar, is seeking to place a stuffed animal and/or blankie in every Afghan refugee child’s hands, to help ease the transitions to and from the refugee camps and to provide a semblance of security and comfort. To date, over 300 items have been collected!

“Since 2014 SOF and enablers have been the primary contact point for Afghan interpreters and combatants. This ‘muscle memory’ of working closely with SOF has led to Afghans’ deep trust and confidence toward the SOF community. The evacuees will listen to and take the advice of SOF advisors much more than non-SOF personnel due to the relationship-building that has occurred over the last 20 years but more so during the previous seven years as the draw down began and SOF was conducting the majority of combat missions” (Daniel E.). Through organizations and partnerships such as ours, those blending SOF veterans and community-based health services, that we can make a lasting impact for Afghan refugee populations. Through the pre-established trust created by our SOF community, the interaction with community based and aid organizations recommended by SOF individuals will be able to identify and address medical, mental health, and resource-based needs more effectively.

Across studies focused on Syrian refugee youth (one of the largest recent groups experiencing forced migration under war-like conditions) the following trends arose:

  • 45-60% of youth met criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder
  • 43-52% of youth experienced clinically significant levels of depression
  • Over 70% of youth met criteria for separation anxiety
  • 27% reported feeling so hopeless they did not want to keep living
These numbers held true shortly after the trauma and up to 4 years later! Our goals as we continue to work with individuals in refugee camps overseas and those in resettlement placements here in the United States are as follows, always with the underlying values of prevention, protection, and nurturance:

-Focus on creating a sense of safety and security within camps. Ensure children have a safe, open space to play and interact (preferably outside if the weather is nice). Provide some type of childcare in this space, even if it is just a couple of soldiers or nonprofit workers. This helps create a sense of safety and limits further distressing interactions with non-familial adults within the camp.
-A transitional object should be provided to each child upon arrival in the camp. This further increases the feeling of safety and security and can lessen anxious and depressive symptomology.
-Attempt to shift self-identification from passive victim to active survivor. Empower youth and families.
-Identify youth and families in need of mental health intervention early and begin services ASAP, perhaps through universal screening in camps or upon entry to US facilities. Early intervention can have a lasting impact on not only the child/family, but also the community in which they are settling.
-A multi-faceted, holistic approach is strongly recommended, including individual, group, and family sessions.
-Family psychoeducation provided as early as the camps is encouraged.
-Engaging social workers or case managers as soon as settlement plan is in place will allow for mitigation of some of the immediate stressors surrounding housing, job security, financial stressors, school registration, etc.
-Teletherapy with providers who speak their language would be a great alternative to therapy with translator.
-Ensuring youth have support entering educational and recreational spaces from the start, as opposed to waiting for problems to occur, will lead to smoother transitions and likely lesser depressive and externalizing behaviors.
-Building a community of survivors in which families can share stories and support one another will help to insulate refugee families from feeling alone or discarded.
-Clear presentation of services available should be given and repeated, allowing for ease of access.

Make a Donation to Omphalos Today!

Help Combat Human Trafficking of Children