86th VRS reveals special holiday visit

by Lt. Col. Ryan Coyne
86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron commander and Maj. Christine Stevens
86th VRS

Shhhhh…it’s a secret….or at least it was until a few junior members of the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron caught a glimpse of what looked like Santa’s sleigh while visiting their parents at work.

Although the team had gone to great lengths trying to conceal this “secret” mission, we were no match for the “eagle eyes” of Team Ramstein’s youngest. After hours of prodding, their parents finally gave in. Yes, what they had seen was indeed Santa’s sleigh receiving maintenance before heading off to his next destination.

Last year, while making his scheduled trip through Germany, Santa made a quick pit stop to the 86th VRS. Santa heard that the 86th Airlift Wing was home to the only VRS in the entire Air Force and since he was already at Ramstein, he decided to receive some quick repairs on his sleigh.

“Everyone knows Ramstein can keep their flight-line open through the harshest winter storms,” said Santa to his elves after reading a copy of the “Snow Fleet Report”. Santa figured if the squadron could handle the maintenance of more than 1,900 unique vehicles, surely they could complete maintenance on his only sleigh.
His visit was not planned, but the VRS was happy to help Santa so he could continue his mission.

Preparing Santa’s sleigh to fly from Ramstein was a team effort between the members of the Logistics Readiness Group and Santa.
Before arriving in Germany, we received a call from Santa that he would be stopping by the VRS before he moved on to his next location. 

When he arrived, we were grateful the 86th Munitions Squadron experts were on hand to render the sleigh’s chaff and flares safe.  Remember, not all of the areas Santa flies over are friendly to his holiday mission. He has to be ready to defend all those toys if the Grinch tries to spoil the night.

The VRS’s customer service section then completed an initial quality control inspection. They noted everything that needed to be fixed then forwarded the list to materiel control to start the parts sourcing process; sometimes the VRS’s allied trades shop will manufacture a unique part if the part can’t be purchased from a commercial vendor.

Santa’s sleigh then got moved to the general-purpose heavy shop where specially trained “sleigh mechanics” performed a more thorough check of the sleigh’s complex systems. From the sleigh’s skids and upgraded next generation navigation system to the seat belts and brakes, their job was to ensure everything worked perfectly. After the sleigh was put back together, the body shop gave it a new, shiny-red paint job; pulling heavy toys in and out of the sleigh all night usually leaves a few dings and chips in the paint.

We’re not done yet. The sleigh then went to the vehicle operations flight for a battery of test runs. Driving Santa’s sleigh is complicated; however, all of VRS’s operators went through extensive upgrade training to ensure they had the needed skills to handle such a high-performance vehicle.

Close coordination with the local flying squadrons and the control tower ensured we stayed out of the way of the aircraft flying around the base.

Lots of maneuver space was needed to ensure the VRS operators could make a couple rooftop landings with some high-speed gift off-loads, all while practicing the ability to muster reindeer while simultaneously eating gingerbread cookies.
After passing all necessary operations checks, the VRS customer service called Santa, who was waiting in the DV lounge, and told him his sleigh was ready to go.
Rest assured, the sleigh continued its mission around the globe without any disruption.

Whether it’s Santa’s sleigh, a sedan, fire truck, bobtail or an extended reach deicer, the 86th VRS does everything possible to ensure your important mission is supported with fully mission capable vehicles. Great VRS support isn’t a gift … it’s our standard. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!