Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR), have formed a unique bond with Afghanistan evacuees rescued from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul.

Upon their return to the ADF’s main operating base in the Middle East, the 1 RAR soldiers were put to work ensuring the temporary camps used to house evacuees were well run. It was at these camps where soldiers realised there were some familiar faces.

Private Buntrock Roljic had pulled several people to safety from a vast crowd in a canal at the perimeter of the airport.

“My team was working at Abbey Gate pulling people out of the canal and helping with operations in the area,” he said.

“There was quite a large number of people and it was a bit chaotic.”

During a shift at one of the camps back at the Middle East base, Private Roljic saw some evacuees he had helped to safety, who were now healthy, rested and waiting for flights to Australia.

“They just came up to me, gave me a big hug and shook my hand,” he said.

“They were grateful at the time in HKIA but their demeanour changed once they were 100 per cent safe and out of Afghanistan – they were all smiles and very happy.”

Commanding Officer 1 RAR Lieutenant Colonel Scott Holmes said the efforts of his regiment resulted in getting more than 1000 people out of crowded airport choke points and onto military aircraft.

“We had great success in identifying people in very large, pressing crowds, to help them over walls, over fence lines and through large bodies of troops,” he said.

“We were over there to help those who had helped us significantly – the work was really rewarding.

“The soldiers thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to help people and it made a great change from the standard work we’d been doing in Afghanistan for the last 20 years.”

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