The Duchess of Cambridge visited RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire today to express her gratitude to those who helped evacuate civilians from Afghanistan.
The Duchess met with a number of people involved in the evacuation of refugees from Kabul in her first Royal engagement since the summer.
During her visit, the Duchess met with military and civilian personnel involved in Operation Pitting, the largest humanitarian aid operation in over 70 years.
During the two-week operation, which involved every unit stationed at RAF Brize Norton, over 850 people arrived.
Outside, Kate could be heard talking to military personnel about their accomplishments during Operation Pitting.
“Well done,” she said. “I hope you get some time to relax; you should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
The Duchess had the chance to speak with those who had been involved in the evacuation operation, and they discussed what the military officers had seen and how it had affected them.
The Duchess of Cambridge expressed herself as follows: “I was just curious if there is a spillover effect for everyone who witnesses something. You’re busy and active during the time period, but what about the aftereffects of witnessing some extremely traumatic events and hearing some extremely difficult stories?”
The Duchess met with RAF pilots, medics who assisted evacuees at Kabul airport, and civilians who established a repatriation center in Brize Norton.
Several flights to the RAF base, as well as other airports, including Heathrow, were made during Operation Pitting.
After the plane had taken off from Kabul airport, the Duchess inquired about the experience on board:
“And did you know what the plan was when you were on the plane? Because you must have been bombarded with questions about what was going to happen next, and it must have been difficult for you not to answer them.”
She was then shown one of the planes used in the Afghan evacuation and met members of the flight crew.
The Duchess inquired about the flying conditions and whether they had ever been in a situation like this before:
“Have you ever been put in positions like that before in terms of flying the aircraft in those kinds of conditions?”
Though there was some challenging flying, Flight Lieutenant Andy Bell said he told the Duchess that it was business as usual in the cockpit.
The most difficult part for him was seeing 200 hundred people on the plane, all of their belongings packed into a single suitcase.
While their information was processed, those arriving at RAF Brize Norton were given food, clothing, toys, medical assistance, childcare, and sanitary products.
The outpouring of support from Oxfordshire residents was so overwhelming that the County Council said it had been inundated with donations and asked people to send them elsewhere.