Their mission: provide airlift support, aeromedical evacuation and airfield operations for combatant commanders.
Their means: seven squadrons with more than 1,000 military members, Department of Defense civilians and contractors, using seven types of aircraft.
Their moniker: the 86th Operations Group at Ramstein.
“We have one of the most diverse operations groups in the Air Force,” said Col. John Budd, 86th OG commander. “The reason for that is we have several different squadrons and no two of them are alike. What’s so unique about the operations group is we’ve got seven squadrons performing seven different missions from three locations and supporting three combatant commanders, and we’re doing it all the time.”
Five of those squadrons are located at Ramstein – the 86th Operations Support Squadron, the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, the 76th Airlift Squadron, the 37th Airlift Squadron and the 38th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
Two of the squadrons are positioned at geographically separated bases – the 496th Air Base Squadron located at Morón Air Base, Spain, and the 309th Airlift Squadron located at Chièvres Air Base, Belgium.
How do each of these squadrons fit into the mission of the 86th OG?
The 86th OSS runs the airfield here and provides operational support for the group. The 86th AES provides aeromedical evacuation support, airlifting wounded warriors back to the United States. The 76th AS operates C-40, C-20 and C-21 aircraft, providing operational support airlift through distinguished visitor support and evacuation support when needed.
The 37th AS operates C-130E and J Hercules aircraft, providing theater airlift support for U.S. European Command and U.S. African Command missions. They are currently in the process of transitioning from E-model aircraft to J-model aircraft.
The 38th EAS also operates C-130 aircraft, providing additional support for EUCOM and AFRICOM missions. This squadron is considered expeditionary because of the military members who come here on temporary duty specifically to man this squadron.
The 496th ABS supports Air Mobility Command air traffic going in and out of theater at Morón. The 309th AS operates C-37A aircraft, providing support for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Commander Europe.
According to the colonel, the 86th OG’s primary purpose is to support Overseas Contingency Operation objectives.
“We support the defense of the United States by moving personnel, cargo, distinguished visitors and maintaining the airfields that allow the throughput of strategic requirements in support of Global War on Terrorism goals,” he said.
Additionally, the group supports the overarching mission of the 86th Airlift Wing.
“We’re the operational execution arm of the wing,” the colonel said. “We fly the missions, we maintain the airfield …we bring the air in Air Force to the wing.”
Members of the operations group include a variety of functional expertise – pilots, flight attendants, aeromedical personnel, weather, intelligence, air traffic controllers and airfield managers.
Although pilots are the most notable career field in the Air Force, Colonel Budd said the “unsung heroes” are those who support the flyers.
“The non-flyers do heroes work because while the aircrews do the flying, they keep operations running,” he said.
Some of those heroes are the airfield managers who keep airfield operations flowing safely and smoothly.
“We ensure a safe operating environment for aircraft assigned to Ramstein or transitioning through here,” said Master Sgt. Spencer Jones, 86th OSS deputy airfield manager. “We take this job seriously to make sure the flying operations continue. We’ve had a lot of construction lately, so we’ve had to move aircraft to alternate runways and taxiways. We work hard to make sure the mission continues safely, and we’re proud to serve the 86th and our country.”
Part of making sure the mission continues, is getting support from outside the unit, including family members and other base supporting agencies.
“We are so grateful to the families of the members of our group who support us,” he said. “We’re grateful to all the support agencies across the wing that we get such great support from. We understand we’re the execution arm of the wing, but we acknowledge and appreciate the fact that what everybody else does is what makes us capable of accomplishing our mission.”
From Norway to Poland to the AOR, the group completes about 3,000 missions a year. One of the more notable efforts included the 37 AS’s role in supporting President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Russia.