As tensions remain high in Ukraine, a handful of American veterans are stepping up to remove U.S. families and children stranded overseas in war zones. One such veterans group, Project Dynamo, has rescued hundreds of Americans from Afghanistan — and now Ukraine — over the years.
At a glance
- A group of military veterans based out of Florida are evacuating American citizens trapped in Ukraine
- The group, dubbed Project Dynamo, is working around the clock to evacuate civilians
- The project began as a means of evacuating Americans in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover
- President Biden has said that he will not send American troops overseas under any present circumstances
The Tampa-based Project Dynamo said they’ve rescued all sorts of people with numerous types of backgrounds. “We’ve had great-grandmas to 2-week-olds, mothers, fathers. We’ve evacuated people with some special needs issues, or really elderly people who have a hard time moving,” Dynamo co-founder Bryan Stern said, Fox News reports. “There’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stories. Just some of them are complete and total nightmares.”
Speaking directly from the war zone in Ukraine, Stern shared that Project Dynamo is currently processing about 14,000 evacuation requests. The organization tries to rescue as many Americans as possible; but will also honor requests from foreign entities when possible.
“In my career, when an American calls for help, or an ally calls for help, or you know anyone calls for help, if you can help, you help,” Stern said.
The United Nations estimates that the Russian invasion has forced around 3 million refugees out of Ukraine thus far. Many hoping to flee have yet to find safe passage out, though. The U.S. Defense Department announced last month it would not send American troops into Ukraine to help American citizens escape.
Project Dynamo immediately stepped in to help.
The Project Dynamo veterans were responsible for some of the first American evacuations from Ukraine back in February
“We started Dynamo in my living room in kind of in response to the Afghanistan evacuation. I’m an Afghan vet. Most of my team are Afghan vets, or at least combat vets. We knew that we could help I knew that we could help,” Stern said.
Stern said he is always accepting donations, which explicitly benefit the removal of civilians; not military personnel.
“It seems to be escalating and getting worse from the Dynamo perspective and that compels us even more because we don’t evacuate soldiers. We focus on the civilian purpose of knowing that the Russians are deliberately targeting civilian targets,” Stern said.
At the end of February, Fox News reported that two dozen American citizens and lawful permanent residents were on the first Project Dynamo bus out of the city; and the group was already planning more evacuations.
The State Department told Americans in Ukraine to “depart immediately” on Feb. 12; and President Biden warned days later that there is no scenario in which he would send troops to rescue Americans.
“There’s a benefit to [Project Dynamo] being made up of a lot of veterans and reserve military members who have experience dealing with these sorts of things, have experience working in special operations or intelligence or specifically exfiltrating people out of dangerous areas,” Project Dynamo James Judge said.
“And when the Biden administration said that they weren’t going to do it, it was kind of like, ‘Okay, here we go.’”