Ramstein Base Tour program marks 15 years

by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The base tour program run by the 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation Office, has been positively impacting the local community for 15 years.

The program has been a critical part of the 86th Airlift Wing’s capability to build trust and support with community partners.

The program started shortly after the terror attacks on 9/11, which shut down the annual Ramstein Open House. The base tour program was then implemented to allow local nationals to visit the base.

“When we first started to implement this program, we had up to three tours per week, which means we had to do a lot of preparation work for the tours,” said Elke Sittel, 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation base tour coordinator. “People used to call every day to request a base tour.”

Up until a change in 2013, approximately 3,500 to 4,000 local nationals got to see “beyond the fence” per month. After the change, the program reduced the number of base tours to one per week.

Even with the reduced numbers of tours, the program still receives approximately 100 request per year.

“What’s been surprising me and my colleagues is that there are still groups from the local area that do not know that we offer base tours,” said Sittel.

Sittel said a large portion of the attendees have genuine interest in the base and the mission of the U.S. Air Force. The requests often come from groups like rotary clubs, sports clubs, and schools.

She also stated schools that go on these tours often like to hear the tour in English, as the students are studying English.

The program has had a positive impact on the community and this has been shown through the amount of positive feedback from the attendees.

“We usually have a lot of people visit who are very skeptical of what the base does,” said Michael Gannon, 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation Advisor and alternate coordinator for the base tour program. “After they visit, most of the skeptics lose their skepticism and appreciate the transparency the Air Force shows during the tour.”

Important key figures from the local community have also been given the tour and the program has helped strengthen the relationships with the surrounding communities and authorities.

“They (attendees) really appreciate the opportunity to come to the base, to see things like the housing area,” said Sittel. “They have no idea how many American families live here, and they love to see part of what we do as the Air Force.”