INDIANAPOLIS—It’s been awhile since new updates have come out on the refugees at Camp Atterbury, but the wait is over. The city of Edinburgh’s town manager, Dan Cartwright, shared some key details Friday about the Afghans transitioning out of Edinburgh as well as their lives inside the base. 

Here is some information Cartwright shared from briefings with the National Guard:

  • As of Thursday, there had been 647 departures from Atterbury. 

  • Of the departures, 169 involved Afghans flying out of state via the Indianapolis International Airport. 

  • Family or friends came and picked up 178 people. 

  • On Thursday alone, there were 47 departures. 

  • Atterbury has not experienced any major crime related to the Afghans.

  • Afghans cannot leave until they receive full vaccinations and finish their vetting processes.

  • There are large families at Atterbury, and there are no children without their parents. 

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Indiana National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Stringer interprets for an Afghan guest during a medical screening Sept. 10 at Camp Atterbury. Task Force Atterbury, consisting of active-duty and National Guard service members supporting this federal mission, is providing housing, medical, logistics and transportation for the Afghan evacuees.

Cartwright said the entire refugee process has gone well. He said there has been no negative response from Edinburgh’s community due to the smoothness of the transition—so smooth, in fact, that Cartwright said if the news of the Afghans wouldn’t have been publicized, he wouldn’t have noticed any change within the city. 

Cartwright said Edinburgh does not currently expect any Afghans to stay in town after their time at Camp Atterbury.

Cartwright touched on the assistance the Afghans are receiving. Cultural and English language classes are being offered. On many of his weekly visits, he said he’s had a good time interacting with the children. 

“It’s fun when I go out there. I’ve been out several times. The little kids want to fist bump you,” said Cartwright. “That’s a new thing for them in America. I’ve had little 4-year-olds walk up for fist bumps.”

Cartwright expressed the importance of donations as the winter months begin. 

“These people came over with nothing but a shirt on their back, and it’s getting cold,” he said.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration echoed these concerns. It released a statement urging Hoosiers to donate cold weather essentials and infant supplies to the Afghan refugees. Donations can be taken to any of the following National Guard Armories, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday-Friday:

  • Evansville: 3300 E. Division St.

  • Greenfield: 410 Apple St.

  • Terre Haute: 3614 Maple Ave.

  • Danville: 1245 E. Main St.

  • Muncie: 401 N. Country Club Road

  • Indianapolis: Kessler-Moore Readiness Center, 2625 W. Kessler Blvd. North Dr.

  • Fort Wayne: 130 W. Cook Road

  • South Bend: 1901 Kemble Ave.

  • New Albany: 2909 Grant Line Road

Tony Sandleben serves as the director of communications for Muncie, Indiana, and also is involved with the Muncie Afghan Refugee Resettlement Committee (MARRC). MARRC is independently run by private individuals and has been helping with resettlement efforts there. It has subcommittees for things such as furnishings, housing, financials, wellness and more.

Sandleben said two refugees have arrived in Muncie. The first individual arrived two weeks ago and has started looking for job opportunities. Sandleben said he has a master’s degree in computer science and that Muncie has employers interested in hiring refugees. 

The second individual arrived afterwards, and Sandleben hasn’t received as many updates on them yet. 

MARRC is preparing for around 50 Afghans to settle in Muncie. Sandleben said that is not a confirmed number but instead a goal for MARRC. 

Sandleben said Muncie has been extremely welcoming and that once the Afghans are settled, it will be important to treat them as normal citizens. 

“Once they’re here and settled and are able to live on their own, from there it comes down to treating them like neighbors—inviting them to dinner, inviting them out to a show or a football game. Befriending them will be important,” Sandleben said. 

Exodus Refugee Immigration is a refugee resettlement and assistance agency that has been very active during Operation Allies Welcome. Cole Varga, the executive director of Exodus’ leadership team, discussed how welcoming and eager people have been to help in Exodus’ efforts.

“The community is rallying. We’ve had 600 people interested in volunteering,” Varga said. “We had to actually shut down our volunteer page. 

“It’s overwhelming, but overwhelming support.”

Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students

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