NEWS | Oct. 18, 2021

Baron's blouse makes history

By Staff Sergeant Shay Stuart 87th Public Affairs

It was an image that captured the hearts of millions; a young Afghan child, sleeping on the floor of a crowded C-17 Globemaster III, tucked beneath an OCP top for warmth.

The blouse belonged to none other than Airman First Class Nicolas Baron, a Loadmaster assigned to the 305th Air Mobility Wing. Baron, a native of Southern Florida, joined the U.S. Air Force in November 2019. After Basic Military Training and Tech School, he officially began working as a Loadmaster in February of this year.

He had no idea that within his first seven months on the job he would be performing his duties to secure an aircraft amongst hundreds of Afghan Refugees as part of Operation Allies Refuge.

“I was just doing what I had to do,” said Baron. “Making sure everyone was seated and safe. My blouse had fallen from where I’d hung it up and as I was focusing on my tasks, a mother picked it up and layed it across her child to help keep them warm. It was heartwarming to see.”

Since that flight, Baron’s blouse has become a symbol for the OAR and an item which has been sought after to be kept and preserved for many years to come.

Air Mobility Command’s history office contacted Stuart Lockhart, 305th Air Mobility Wing historian, to ask if Baron would be willing to donate his blouse to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

“Even before the end of the operation the curators at the National Museum were looking for items to document Operation Allies Refuge,” Lockhart said. “One item that they mentioned in particular that they wanted, was [A1C Baron’s] blouse.”

Located in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the world’s oldest and largest military aviation history museum. It’s here that artifacts are stored, preserved, researched and presented to connect the world to the Air Force’s story.

It may seem surreal to see a modern uniform worn by Airmen today displayed alongside uniforms, weaponry and other aviation artifacts from different eras. Lockhart explains that common items to us today are made significant by missions and historic events like that of OAR.

“It’s funny, I think any Airman would look at this and say, ‘It’s just a common OCP blouse’, but it’s the piece that is so recognizable,” said Lockhart. “In the early phases of this operation all that we were hearing on the news was how bad the situation was and then to have this touching image come out of just a simple humanitarian gesture, it made such an impression on our country and our world. It’s absolute gold.”

As for Baron, the big picture is not lost on him. He originally joined with the goal of being a part of something bigger, and after his experience serving in OAR and his blouse now representing the heart of the mission, it may be safe to say he achieved that.

“I think the blouse [gives a sense of] hope no matter who they are or where they’re from...It makes me feel proud [of our mission] and of the crew.”