OSS ensures smooth air operations

by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau
Ramstein Public Affairs

Excellence starts here. Not only is this the motivational chant of the 86th Operation Support Squadron, but it encompasses all they do.

With a mission to provide world-class operations support for the planning and execution of 86 Airlift Wing missions anytime and anywhere, the 86th OSS is an integral part of smooth operations on Ramstein.

“We do a lot of the behind the scenes work. Yeah, a flight goes out and flies their mission but we’re doing a lot of the set up and background work behind it,” said 1st Lt. Rebecca Saxer, 86th OSS executive officer.

Before aircrews can even fly the aircraft, the current operations flight is on the phone, working out flying schedules and logistics with not only other bases but other countries. They act as a liaison between Ramstein’s flying squadrons and the 603rd Air Mobility Division, which falls under the 3rd Air Force. The 86th OSS also informs the group and wing commanders about flight schedules and air operations.

In preparation for the scheduled flights, the host aviation resource management flight, also another part of the 86th OSS, tracks any type of paperwork that has to do with the fliers. This small shop is responsible for making sure more than 11,000 aircrew members in 25 different countries are up to date on all flight training and requirements.

Even with accurate records, air drops require special attention. Every piece of cargo that’s dropped needs to be inspected by the joint airdrop inspections flight. This flight checks the cargo to make sure everything makes the drop and to ensure the safety of everyone involved. During the drop, they also watch the drop zone as sort of a quality control.

Another flight that is responsible for all flying mission equipment is the airfield equipment flight. They repair and maintain all life support systems for the aircrew. From masks and helmets to night vision, they check them all to make sure the pilots are the safest they can be.

“If we don’t have our equipment on the planes, the pilots can’t fly,” said Airman 1st Class David Shirley, 86th OSS aircrew flight equipment technician.

Knowledge can be a pilot’s most important instrument when flying, and the weather and intelligence flights of the 86th OSS make sure they have as much information as they need. The weather flight monitors weather on Ramstein and forecasts local weather. Once they have that information, they brief the crews before flight to make sure they are knowledgeable.

“It’s so much more tailored and it’s more specific to exactly what we need when the 86th OSS weather flight supports us,” said Capt. Seth Bliss, 37th Airlift Squadron central scheduler.

Knowing the weather isn’t enough though. The intelligence flight is responsible for making sure the crews are aware of any threats they may encounter while flying their mission. They also give them a weapons brief for local flights.

Finally, the tower and the ground control approach center control the airspace around Ramstein and manage runway takeoffs and landings. The control center handles all aircraft from 25 miles from the base. The tower takes over at five miles and controls the runway.

“We’re providing all our support on the ground to get our aircraft ready, to get our fliers ready, and to get the mission taken care of,” Lieutenant Saxer said.
True to their squadron chant of “excellence starts here,” the 86th OSS strives to ensure smooth operations for DOD’s “Gateway to Europe.”