A road trip to understanding

by Josh Aycock
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Local civic leaders returned to the passenger terminal here, May 13, after a four-day tour of several stateside Air Force installations.

Seventeen representatives from German federal, state and local governments were escorted to the states, May 9 through 13, by Lt. Gen. Stephen P. Mueller, U.S. Air Forces in Europe vice commander, for an insider’s look at how Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases fit into the Air Force mission. 

“What an excellent experience,” General Mueller said.  “We were not only able to highlight the strategic roles of Ramstein and Spangdahlem to our neighbors, but we were also able to learn from our civic leaders what is important to them and how we can help make our relationships even stronger for the future.”

The group met with senior leadership and toured facilities at the Pentagon; Air Mobility Command, U.S. Transportation Command and 18th Air Force at Scott AFB, Ill; Air Force Space Command and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado; the 57th Fighter Wing and Thunderbird demonstration team at Nellis AFB; and the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

“They were immersed in all three Air Force domains: air, space and cyberspace,” said Capt. Jason Parker, special actions officer to the USAFE commander. “They got to see the whole Air Force spectrum, starting at the Pentagon for a strategic overview and then working their way down to how we cultivate our leaders at the academy.”

The trip hit its target of highlighting the role of Ramstein and Spangdahlem to the bigger Air Force picture.

“It was an immensely informative journey with the focus being on how Ramstein plays into something that is much larger,” said Werner Holz, mayor for Union Community Bruchmühlbach-Miesau. “I never thought that Ramstein was playing such an important role.”

Intensive civic leader tours like this are held every two years by USAFE. The goal is to build understanding and long-lasting relationships between the base and its host nation. 

“Having our neighbors understand what we do is of critical importance,” said Wolfgang Motz, host nation adviser to the USAFE commander.  “Years later they will tell of this trip. That is one of the benefits, the people who are selected tend to go on to bigger things, taking with them a firm understanding of how Ramstein fits into the Air Force.”

Members of the group found the trip rewarding in the variety of information received and the personal relationships formed.  

“We were offered a unique opportunity to build personal contacts throughout the Air Force and a good basis for future cooperation,” said David Hermann, director of the North American Desk at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We have a better understanding of what the Air Force needs, and they have an understanding of what we need.”

Upon returning home, the group was tired but in high spirits from a whirlwind tour of five Air Force installations and the Pentagon in four days. Everyone on the trip, both the German participants and the Air Force escorts, agreed that while the trip was not a vacation, it was beneficial because of the relationships that were created.

“This was no tourist trip; we worked very hard for it,” Mr. Holz said. “I’ve now got some good ideas on how we can work together in the future.”