Paratroopers from the 1-504th, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division assemble Aug. 14 at Joint Base Charleston in preparation to fly to to Afghanistan | U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Vincent Levelev

The first images have been released showing Charleston-based airmen preparing supplies and soldiers for transport to Afghanistan, as American military personnel mobilize to evacuate people from the war-torn nation now under Taliban control.

Charleston-based Air Force personnel have been involved in operations in Afghanistan for years, but until now the Defense Department has been tight-lipped about local involvement in the current operation in Kabul. Images published yesterday show Immediate Response Force troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division assembled Saturday at Joint Base Charleston awaiting transport, along with Charleston-based airmen from the 437th Aerial Port Squadron loading vehicles into a C-17 cargo jet.

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have been involved with securing the Kabul airport, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). As part of the military’s Immediate Response Force, the 82nd’s 1st Brigade Combat Team remains on high alert and able to mobilize worldwide within 18 hours.

Charleston-based airmen load a C-17 bound for Afghanistan | U.S. Air Force photos by Staff Sgt. Christian Sullivan

U.S. troops are deploying to Afghanistan after the country fell under the control of the Taliban amidst the American withdrawal from the nation after a 20-year conflict that began after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. American military personnel have been pulling out of the country for months, but U.S. leaders admit the nation, including the capital of Kabul, fell to the Taliban faster than expected, leading to the deployment of the Immediate Response Force.

Charleston-based Air Force reservist Ed Sutton, a C-17 pilot, tweeted over the weekend that he was among the local personnel headed back to the Middle East, but no official word had been handed down from government officials until the photo release late Wednesday.

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne board a Charleston-based C-17 Aug. 14 | Photo by Spc. Hunter Garcia

About 20 C-17s are landing in Kabul every 24 hours, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday. President Joe Biden has authorized up to 6,000 military personnel in Kabul as the evacuation continues. C-17s are doing the bulk of the large-scale evacuations, with hundreds of people packing cargo bays for transport out of the country.

The commercial airport in Kabul is said to be one of the only ways in or out of the capital without encountering Taliban militants.

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III jets based at Joint Base Charleston are some of the U.S. military’s biggest and most used heavy cargo aircraft, and fly routine domestic transport jobs along with strategic airdrop missions in conflict areas. It is the same type of aircraft pictured in the widely seen video showing people clinging to its landing gear, but that C-17 is not based in Charleston.