Indiana is preparing to receive 5,000 Afghan evacuees at Camp Atterbury in the coming weeks, with the first 1,000 set to arrive by this weekend.
Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, head of the Indiana National Guard, said the state is bringing resources and personnel from outside Indiana to meet the needs of evacuees. And he stressed that Atterbury won’t need to deplete any resources from the state, particularly when it comes to COVID-19.
“We understand that emergency room wait times are higher than normal," Lyles said. "We do not want to pressure local hospitals.”
Lyles said the Indiana National Guard will call up some of its members to support the mission at Atterbury. But he noted that won't effect the ongoing deployment of guardsmen across the state who are supporting the Indiana Department of Health with COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
After an initial 14-day medical screening, Afghan evacuees will eventually be able to leave Atterbury, temporarily and then permanently. But Lyles said that’s only after a four-fold vetting process – first, to get out of Afghanistan, then in holding areas in Europe or the Middle East, then once they arrive in the United States, and then again at Camp Atterbury itself.
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said, once they’re cleared to permanently resettle in the United States, he hopes refugees choose Indiana.
“These are the same folks who, for decades, have assisted and aided us,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said the state will be transparent with local communities and law enforcement about the vetting process and when evacuees will be able to leave Camp Atterbury.
Resources for evacuees, both while they're at Camp Atterbury and if they temporarily leave the facility, will largely be provided for by the federal government. Holcomb and Lyles both said state agencies are prepared to help assist in any way they can.
Permanent resettlement will fall more on outside refugee organizations.
Lyles also noted the state has been overwhelmed by donations for the evacuees. He said the Indiana National Guard is coordinating with state, federal and non-governmental groups to best utilize those donations. And he said if people are interested in donating, they should contact the National Guard at 317-247-3559.