An Afghan girl who was born on a U.S. Air Force C-17 on Saturday has been named ‘Reach,’ after the call sign of the jet that brought her and her mother from Qatar to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, said Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command, said on Monday.
The jet, ‘Reach 828,’ was mid-flight when the mother went into labor, according to a statement released by Air Mobility Command. She began experiencing complications due to low blood pressure, so the aircraft commander decided to take the plane down to a lower altitude to increase air pressure in the jet, the statement said. The decision saved the mother’s life. The jet soon landed at Ramstein, where airmen from the 86th Medical Group came aboard and delivered the child in the C-17’s cargo bay.
“The baby girl and mother were transported to a nearby medical facility and are in good condition,” the statement read.
Two days later, Army Gen. Steve Lyons, the head of U.S. Transportation Command, told reporters that he was aware of two other babies born to Afghan refugees during the evacuation effort, though there may be more that he is unaware of since he does not have “a formal tracker,” he said.
A second confirmed child was born on Monday aboard a C-17 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, also upon landing, Air Mobility Command spokesperson Maj. Hope Cronin told Task & Purpose. At least one other woman went into labor aboard a C-17 that arrived at Al Udeid from Afghanistan at some point over the last week, but she delivered her baby in an off-base hospital in Doha after being transported there by ambulance, Cronin said.
“The babies and parents are all doing fine,” she added.
The news of the births was one of several bright spots amidst a wave of tragic news coming out of Afghanistan, where the national government collapsed after a 20 year effort by the United States to prop it up, and where the conquering Taliban are likely to reintroduce a fundamentalist Islamist government. Other bright spots include footage of a U.S. Marine helping an infant get over a wall into safety; and Air Mobility Command announced that one of its C-17s had set a new record for fitting 823 refugees onto a single flight.
However, much more still needs to be done. Two U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), both veterans, traveled to Afghanistan and declared that the U.S. will not be able to evacuate all American citizens and Afghans at risk by President Joe Biden’s deadline of Aug. 31.
About 88,000 people, including more than 4,400 Americans have been rescued so far. But the looming deadline means tens of thousands of Afghans attempting to flee Taliban rule will be left behind, including those who face the threat of reprisal for working with the U.S.-led Coalition during the war.
“After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time, even by September 11,” Moulton and Meijer said in a joint statement.
One thing is very likely though: the refugees who have made it out so far will have better prospects than they would have in Afghanistan.
“[T]hat child’s name will forever be ‘Reach,’ and as you can well imagine – being an Air Force fighter pilot – it’s my dream to watch that young child called ‘Reach’ grow up to be a U.S. citizen and fly United States Air Force fighters in our Air Force,” Wolters said.