Exercise enhances readiness, partnerships

What may have seemed like just another crisis response exercise on Ramstein recently was actually a significant stride toward enhancing key partnerships in the local community.

More than 100 German first responders and observers participated in the 86th Airlift Wing and 435th Air Ground Operations Wing hosted exercise Monday to Thursday.  Specifically, individuals from the Polizei, the Kaiserslautern County Disaster Preparedness section and their volunteer fire departments, including medical response teams from the German Red Cross and the Malteser, participated in one of the major response events at the Ramstein East Gate Tuesday.

“Over the last year, the two wings have participated in numerous exercises to enhance our ability to survive and operate in a dynamic, combat environment,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander. “But as recent events have proven, we know that if a crisis erupts in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, it is not one that we will face on our own, but together with our host-nation partners, and it is critical that we exercise together to ensure success.”

Seventeen host nation officials from the Kaiserslautern County, the German Police (Rheinland-Pfalz State Criminal Office, HQ Police Presidium Western Palatinate, Police Inspection Landstuhl and RAB Police Station), the ADD (Directorate of Public Control and Services), the German Military State Command, the Kaiserslautern City Fire Department and the Kaiserslautern City German Red Cross  observed the event.  Kaiserslautern County Commissioner Paul Junker and his Deputy Gudrun Heß-Schmidt were at the scene as well. 

Ms. Heß-Schmidt emphasized the importance of joint exercises to improve communication and to get to know the American counterparts. Due to constant rotations it is important re-establish points of contacts. Regular exercises with new scenarios support the existing good German-American cooperation. 

In addition, though many aspects of crisis response may seem similar between the U.S. and Germans, there are subtleties that can impair timely response if not understood and worked out before hand.

“These exercises are necessary to practice the flow of information. German command structures are more permanent. On the U.S. side there are frequent personnel changes so the lines of communication should be checked and/or re-established regularly,” said Gerd Willerscheidt, Hauptkommissar, Police Inspection Landstuhl, who participated as an observer and liaison for the exercise.

For this reason, many of the U.S. and German emergency response agencies practice with each other often, however it was the first time in two years that it had been accomplished to this scale, including a scenario involving both on-

and off-base locations.

“We spent four months of planning and discussions to ensure the scenario we developed was one that would both benefit our U.S. personnel, but also our gracious hosts who took time out of their busy schedules to participate ― many in a volunteer capacity,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Eldred, 86th AW chief of inspections and readiness. “We are using this event as a good basis on which to expand future exercises.”  

After several hours of battling the scenario, valuable lessons that can be used in the future were learned by every agency involved.

“These exercises are essential for a successful cooperation in a real-life situation. Repeated exercises are a must,” said Gerd Schnarr, Hauptkommissar, Police Inspection Landstuhl, who participated as an observer and liaison.

(Courtesy of 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs)