Former refugee volunteers for OAR

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Madelyn Keech
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As a refugee who fled from India, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Neha Sharma, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade intelligence officer at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for Operation Allies Refuge at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Sharma was around 10 years old when she fled India with her mother and brother and moved to Chicago, Illinois. Volunteering for this mission has hit close to home, she said.

She received notification about the need for female service members to volunteer to support in the female pods. 

When she was sent to the female pod, she didn’t know exactly what it entailed. She went from thinking about memories from her own experiences while fleeing India to diving head first into assisting anywhere help was needed.

“We are in the female pod and we have all these women [service members] who know what these women [evacuees] want and who know how to get it done,” she said. “All of us are just looking out for these moms and children.”

One of her favorite parts was setting up a playpen for the children with donations of toys from the American Red Cross pod in the back of the hangar.

“Those kids have not left the playpen all day,” Sharma said. “The mothers are super happy.”

Sharma said the entire experience has been very rewarding for her and has been her most memorable moment of serving in the Army. She loves that the volunteers want to be there, making the experience much more enjoyable for her.

“Everyone wants to bring these people out of danger,” she said. “It was not like that for us when I was young. It definitely wasn’t this nice. There wasn’t guaranteed food and other things like that [when I fled India]. I’m glad to be a part of it.”