Petty Officer 2nd Class Leah Romero
Petty Officer 2nd Class Leah Romero

El Paso native supports Task Force 58 aboard USS Ronald Reagan

MILLINGTON, Tn. – Petty Officer 2nd Class Leah Romero, a native of El Paso, assigned to forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan  supports Task Force 58 and Operation Allies Refuge (OAR).

On July 14, 2021, the White House announced OAR to support the relocations of interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their immediate families who supported the U.S. Government and applied for a Special Immigrant Visa.

The Department of State, the lead federal agency for this operation, activated the Afghanistan Coordination Task Force on July 19, 2021, and requested the Department of Defense provide support for up to 3,500 Afghan special immigrant applicants.

On Sept. 14, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) stood down a task force it established in August to temporarily assist the safe evacuation of personnel from Afghanistan.

Task Force 58 helped facilitate the safe transit of more than 7,000 U.S. citizens and evacuees traveling from Afghanistan through Bahrain. The task force included more than 1,400 U.S. and coalition personnel from various units operating in the 5th Fleet area of operations.

U.S. service members worked alongside U.S. Embassy and Bahraini counterparts to provide travelers with meals, short-term lodging and medical services around the clock before departing. NAVCENT established the task force Aug. 19 and immediately began constructing temporary processing and lodging facilities.

Romero, who joined the Navy six years ago and currently serves as a cryptologic technician collection, is proud to participate in OAR.

“I’m very proud of the work we did here,” said Romero. “Though I hope the opportunity never presents itself again, I would volunteer to help again if I could.”

According to Romero, supportin OAR has been a rewarding experience.

“The support we provided in Bahrain varied between emotional and physical,” said Romero. “We smiled through a lot of what we saw, regardless of how tired we were.”

According to Navy officials, USS Ronald Reagan is the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 5 and is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Romero, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“We kept the smiles on our faces to comfort unaccompanied toddlers and kids who held strong,” added Romero. “Their resilience was inspiring but painful to witness.”

Author: Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Bryan Niegel, Navy Office of Community Outreach

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