Evolution of the Global Gateway: 521 AMOW, Ramstein partners in rapid global mobility

Members from the 721st Air Mobility Operations Group pose for a photo in front of a C-17 Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mar. 17, 2022. A seven-member team assigned to the 721st AMOG returned from a deployment to Poland alongside the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing to support Allies and partners in the region. As NATO partners, the U.S. regularly operates with Polish forces to improve collective readiness, interoperability, and strengthen relationships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Faith Schaefer)

Ramstein Air Base and the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing have a longstanding history of partnership.

It began in 1954, when the 521st AMOW was called the 501st Tactical Control Group and was stationed at Landstuhl Air Base, . Landstuhl became Landstuhl-Ramstein AB, and the group became a wing, but no matter the names, the base and the wing worked closely together for the next six years to deliver air mobility during the Cold War.

In 1960, the 521st TCW was inactivated, but the need continued for Ramstein AB to have dedicated units of Air Mobility Command present on the base to coordinate strategic airlift in the region. In 1982, the Air Force activated the 608th Military Airlift Group here on Ramstein AB. The unit was re-designated several times until in 2001 it finally became what it is still known as today: the 721st Air Mobility Operations Group. This group brought with it the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron, which oversaw aerial port operations and maintenance for AMC missions at Ramstein AB.

By 2008, many years into the United States’ response to 9-11 and the ongoing security commitments across the world, a massive logistics network of en route hubs had grown across Europe and Southwest Asia. Ramstein AB had already proven itself as the natural central hub in many ways, and so it became the natural home for the new wing created to oversee this network: the 521st AMOW. The new AMOW boasted the 721st AMOW and its sister group, the 521st Air Mobility Operations Group located on Naval Station Rota, Spain.

With the activation in 2008, 723rd Air Mobility Squadron and its robust mission at Ramstein AB was taken over by the new 721st Aerial Port Squadron and 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron stood up the next year.

For the next decade and more, these units worked with AMOW sister units across EUCOM and CENTCOM, and with their host partners at Ramstein AB and elsewhere, to accomplish strategic airlift supporting the nation’s critical locations of military action.

The 313th EOSS provided world-class command and control, aeromedical evacuation, and expeditionary aircrew support to U.S. Transportation Command missions transiting through Ramstein AB. In addition to AE teams and C2 capabilities, the squadron houses Ravens, Flying Crew Chief, Commander Support Staff, communications, intelligence and tactics. In 2021, as a recognition that these functions were a vital and enduring part of Team Ramstein’s operations, the 313th EOSS was inactivated and replaced with a new permanent unit, the 721st Mobility Support Squadron.

The 721st Aerial Port Squadron is the largest en route aerial port and executes premier logistics services in support of five combatant commanders. The squadron operates the community’s Air Mobility Command Passenger Terminal and the In-transit Munitions Facility. It also provides joint inspections, fleet services, and passenger and cargo services to Ramstein mission partners and beyond.

The 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron offers the largest en route maintenance capability in Air Mobility Command. Launching or recovering an average of over 350 aircraft per month, the squadron safely advances Rapid Global Mobility using Hangar Five, the Air Force’s largest overseas C-5 Galaxy fuel cell aircraft hangar and often has maintenance recovery teams on the road across Europe and Africa to enable onward movement of the mission.

To accomplish each of these critical mission-sets across the 521st AMOW has required the support of mission and host-nation partners. In the last two years alone, these partnerships have reached such heights as to appear on television screens across the globe.

In Spring 2020, the world came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Department of Defense’s Global Gateway, Team Ramstein came together on solutions to project combat power and keep passengers moving through a global air travel system that had been thrown into shock. With constantly changing border entry requirements, the 521st AMOW and Ramstein worked closely to ensure that military passengers could travel to and through Germany, and that transiting aircrews could receive proper testing, food, and lodging between missions.

Additionally, the aeromedical side of Team Ramstein performed the first-ever DoD infectious patient transport missions. Using a newly operationalized Transportation Isolation System created during the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the 313th EOSS, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, and 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron worked with higher headquarters to create a plan of operations, train crews on procedures, and eventually transport the first of many patients. Their efforts created a baseline of operations that continued with a more advanced system, the Negatively Pressurized Conex, which now operates across multiple DoD locations and theaters.

In 2021, as the United States and coalition partners ended the war in Afghanistan, Ramstein AB became a main interim staging base to save the lives of tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees. Every facet of the 521st AMOW mission in Germany intertwined with Ramstein as the en route system cared for passengers, aircrew, aircraft, and interagency partners. All the while, the community gave the evacuees a home and its mission partners the resources needed to succeed.

Since the start of 2022, Ramstein AB was a critical en route node for aid as the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance joined hand-in-hand to reaffirm unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In May this year, European partners and Team Ramstein rapidly answered America’s call for baby formula to nourish our newest citizens. This massive effort delivered enough formula to create millions of bottles of baby food and was the start of a continuing mission of over 50 commercial flights.

The longstanding partnership between the 521st AMOW and Ramstein AB shows that no matter how unpredictable the operation, Team Ramstein will prevail. Congratulations to the Ramstein AB community on 70 years of building Airmen and projecting power. Air Mobility Command is proud to be a mission partner and part of that history!