Losing Rhein-Main, bigger Ramstein

Master Sgt. Chuck Roberts
Air Force Print News

After almost five years and $540 million, the Rhein-Main Transition Program will finish by its Dec. 31, 2005, deadline.
Financially, the transaction will alleviate spending approximately $17 million annually to keep Rhein-Main operational. Once the transition is complete, the Air Force is expected to pump almost $30 million annually into the Ramstein and Spangdahlem area economies.
Deployed airmen in particular will appreciate the transition. Gone will be the days of landing at Rhein-Main heavily laden with gear, only to realize they must find transportation to Ramstein to further await a C-130 hop downrange.
Not only will new arrivals land at Ramstein, but a centralized ring of accommodations will await them only a short walk away. In conjunction with the transition program, the KMC is shifting its passenger service terminal, billeting, restaurants, theaters and a new base exchange to one central location.
John Thompson, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe manager for the ambitious American-German effort, described the ability to keep operations going despite the closure of a single runway as “a tremendous capability.” In decades past, the closure of an Air Force runway in Europe could be alleviated by sharing space at another base. Because of the military drawdown in the early 1990s, however, that has increasingly become less of an option.
Achieving that capability not only depends on the coordinated working relationship between the command and the 86th and 435th, but also the established Air Force, NATO and host nation partnership throughout this endeavor.
Major Webster shares the latest transfer program information and serves as a conduit for coordination between the affected airlift wing organizations and the command during weekly meetings. She said these weekly meetings have paid dividends because timing is critical. One project often depends upon the completion of another, and the ripple effect could cause a wave of delays.
Coordination with overall planners is simple for her since she shares a sliver of an office alongside Mr. Thompson and other USAFE planners. The information exchange in the two-story “box” office is fast, furious, widely varied and sometimes challenging.
For example, a German aviation law became an extraordinary challenge when it was apparent the air traffic would increase at Ramstein, and operations would change with the construction of a major wide-body parking ramp at Spangdahlem.
This drove new air traffic act permits for both bases – unprecedented for U.S. forces in Germany, said Udo Bollmann, the command’s host nation legal advisor. This permit was issued by the German government and determines important operational limits that must be observed in peacetime operations.
“You can’t imagine the broad nature of problems we deal with,” he said. But when asked about meeting the 2005 deadline, he acknowledged the challenge and said the team was “looking good.”