Ramblings from the 86th OG

Col. Hank Sanders
86th Operations Group commander

I have just returned from a quick trip downrange. I went to check on the men and women of the mighty 37th Airlift Squadron and the maintainers who support them.

I am proud to report that these warriors, just like Airmen in the past, are a professional group of steely-eyed heroes. Their dedication to the mission is above reproach.

Their mission is simple;  to support the ground force commander to move stuff so the Army can reduce the number of convoys; thereby, saving lives. The mission these warriors perform everyday in combat is theater tactical airlift – encompassing the complete spectrum from hauling food and water, transporting vehicle parts and returning hurt or fallen warriors. Simply put, these Airmen make me proud. 

The squadron flies the vintage C-130E – a plane built in 1963, and they are rugged, ugly and propeller driven but like my son says, “they are sexy.” These aircraft get hit by small arms every now and then. But these tough old war birds just keep on flying. 

But the morale is high in the desert base, and aircrew still whine about the dust and the environment. The bathrooms are a 100-yard walk.

But on the other hand, the gym is great and the dining facility is amazing. These are just some of the things that make being deployed an adventure. The temperature is now a little cooler, around the low 70’s, off from the 120s in the summertime.

However, my favorite smells of burning JP-8 fuel mixed with the burning trash pits adds to the ambience of war.

It is rewarding to me as their operations group commander to see all of them excited about their mission.

The danger, the reward of flying supplies into austere locations supporting their joint war-fighters – getting the mission done.

One of the most humbling and somber missions is the return of a fallen hero. And one of the most rewarding missions is redeploying a ground unit that has finished its one-year rotation.

The crews really get pumped up when on takeoff roll the 56 or so duty passengers (mainly Army and Marine infantry) start to clap and shout. This is just the first leg of a long and often dreamed about return home.

I also had the opportunity to talk to a local Iraqi and it was interesting to see the gleam in his eye when he talked about the upcoming elections and what the United States is doing to help make his country free.

He also talked about the past regime and its brutal dictator. I am convinced we are making Iraq a better nation.

What does this have to do with Team Ramstein? I want everyone who works on Ramstein to remember that we are part of the overall national and coalition strategy on the Global War on Terrorism. Team Ramstein is engaged: from USAFE headquarters’ support to help train, equip and sustain these warriors; from the C-17s and C-5s carrying materials and personnel to the fight, to combat readiness, to the civil engineer folks keeping the flight line clear of snow, to the folks who guard the aircraft, to the support for our families left back. Team Ramstein is actively supporting the Global War on Terrorism.