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Afghan mother who went into labor on evacuation flight names daughter after jet’s uplifting call sign

In this Air Force photo, airmen assigned to the 86th Medical Group provide post-labor care to an Afghan mother who gave birth aboard an Air Force C-17. (Edgar Grimaldo/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Afghan girl, spirited to safety while still in her mother’s womb, will not only have a gripping story to tell about her dramatic delivery; she also has a high-flying name to match, Pentagon officials said this week.

The baby girl’s parents named their daughter “Reach,” after the call sign on the Air Force C-17 aircraft that evacuated them on Aug. 21 to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Defense Department officials were able to confirm how the parents selected Reach’s name as officials had been in contact with the family since the evacuation, Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command, said during a news briefing Wednesday.

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“So that child’s name will forever be Reach,” Wolters said. “And if you can well imagine, being an Air Force fighter pilot, it’s my dream to watch that young child called Reach grow up and be a U.S. citizen and fly United States Air Force fighters in our Air Force.”

Defense officials did not provide identifying details about the family due to safety concerns, and the mother’s face was digitally obscured in photos the Air Force shared of airmen with the 86th Medical Group at Ramstein assisting her off the aircraft.

Thousands of people have been desperately trying to flee Afghanistan since the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country in mid-August.

Reach 828 had departed from an intermediate staging area in Qatar on Saturday with a planeload of evacuees when the unnamed Afghan mother went into labor and began having complications.

“The aircraft commander decided to descend in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilize and save the mother’s life,” Air Mobility Command said via Twitter.

Army Capt. Erin Brymer, a nurse at the military’s nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, told CNN on Tuesday that her team was alerted that an aircraft with a woman who had gone into labor was landing in 10 minutes.

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Brymer’s team was “expecting the worst, hoping for the best,” she said.

No sooner had Reach 828 gone wheels-down in Ramstein than its namesake arrived.

Aided by medics, the mother delivered Reach in the cargo bay of the aircraft. A group of female evacuees surrounded the mother and held up their shawls to protect her privacy, Brymer said. “It was a beautiful sight to see.”

The mother was “past the point of no return” and had to deliver in the cargo bay rather than be transported to the hospital, Brymer explained. When the baby arrived, crying, and the mother was quickly able to begin breastfeeding, the Army nurse said she knew they would be all right.

The family was later transported to a medical facility in good condition.

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Baby Reach already has company — at least two other babies have been born at Landstuhl since evacuations began. So far, Reach is the only baby not to wait for the hospital to make her arrival.

Brymer said her team is anticipating more pregnant women arriving on evacuation flights.

“I actually feel quite honored and humbled to be a part of this mission. And just kind of — the sheer humanity of this,” Brymer said. “I mean, we’re people, they’re people. We both want the same things, healthy and strong mamas and babies.”

It’s not immediately clear where Reach’s family — or the other Afghans aboard their transport flight — will resettle. Ramstein, the U.S. Air Force’s largest base in Europe, in recent days has ballooned to at least 6,500 people as it becomes a way station for those who have left home but have uncertain destinations ahead.

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