Somewhere in the Luxembourg countryside, armed guards keep watch over a compound of non-descript warehouses and storage containers. Each warehouse in the facility holds a different surprise, but those coming in will find that most of these treasures are kept hidden under lock and key.
Stacks of metal boxes tower above the ground as workers inspect vehicles, equipment, and other material to make sure they are still usable.
One may wonder what is so important about this labyrinth of a storage facility, and why the U.S. Air Force and Luxembourg government are determined to protect everything in it.
“The 86th Material Maintenance Squadron manages 85 percent of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s war reserve material,” said Lt. Col. Paul Arkwell, 86th MMS commander. “That can be anything from showers and latrines, special purpose vehicles, and spare parts.”
Airmen of the 86th MMS are responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and keeping accountability of the Air Forces’ war reserve material in in Europe. What makes the squadron unique is that it does not focus on one career field, but contains Airmen from multiple Air Force specialty codes.
“We have 18 different AFSCs to manage all these different assets of the warfighter,” said Arkwell. “We have a small footprint, but this is a tactical level that has a strategic and direct impact to two theaters of war or beyond when called upon. It’s all about warfighter support, and recognizing that the Air Force mission has more than one career field.”
The Luxembourg government’s Warehouse Service Agency manages the facility, but the Air Force owns most of the material stored in the compound.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Davis, 86th MMS non-commissioned officer in charge of asset management, said the squadron’s mission is to safeguard and maintain all kinds of material and equipment needed for establishing a bare base in a deployed location.
“Anything can happen in this area of responsibility,” he said. “This squadron is ready for short-notice tasks. We are able to rapidly leave a footprint no matter where that demand is needed. We have anything a base needs to operate, and we can deliver it any time.”
Davis stressed the importance of his squadron’s mission, stating that the ability of his squadron to support deployed troops has a direct impact on mission success.
“The things we provide provides morale as well as combat support,” he said. “Once they return (to the base), they can relax, have a hot meal, and do anything else we can do here. Without those assets, the power and fuel, we wouldn’t be able to project the airpower we need to be able to handle the mission. It would have a huge impact.”
Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Whitely, 86th MMS superintendent, expressed pride in his job maintaining the Air Force’s WRM, saying he enjoys working with Airmen from different career fields.
“This is the best job I’ve had since I joined the Air Force,” he said. “I’ve been at the squadron for over two years, and the reward we get back by working with 18 AFSCs is just amazing. In my opinion, this is the best unit I’ve been assigned to.”
Arkwell also said he was grateful to lead the 86th MMS, adding that he felt honored to be able to lead a material maintenance squadron in the Air Force.
“I couldn’t ask for a better unit,” he said. “The men and women of this unit have created Air Force-level impact. Their processes and procedures are changing the way the Air Force instructions and regulations are written because of the things they have done.”