Ramstein wraps up Exercise Operation Varsity 19-01

Story and photos by
Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force first responders assess the scene of a simulated aircraft crash during Exercise Operation Varsity 19-01 on Ramstein Air Base, Feb. 27. 86th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters responded immediately to the scene to exercise their response capabilities.

The giant voice system echoes throughout the installation. The children running around the house hear only one phrase, “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE.” As the kids echo the bits and pieces of what they understood to each other, they begin to mimic exercises, by running up and down the stairs in their house. While it might be all fun and games for the kids, their parents are out and about, hard at work.

Members of the 86th Security Forces Squadron respond to a simulated active shooter during Exercise Operation Varsity 19-01 on Ramstein Air Base, Feb. 26. Shortly after the members apprehended the suspect, more security forces members arrived to sweep the entire building.

The first iteration of Exercise Operation Varsity wrapped up March 1, after a jam-packed week of training.

“It has been an amazing opportunity to see the entire wing, across all seven groups, and four different countries, come together to participate in the largest readiness exercise ever,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander.

“We got to do an entire year’s worth of inspections required by Air Force Instruction in a five-day period. It doesn’t get any better than that for the entire team,” said August.

Base agencies on Ramstein and Vogelweh Military Complex, fired on all cylinders to push their Airmen throughout the week.

“We learned a lot in this exercise,” said August. “We have a tremendous group of soloists who are masters at what they do. Whether it’s security forces members with their M4, firefighters with their fire engines, or fuels Airmen with their fuel trucks, you are amazing at what you do. But what we learned though, is that we have a little bit of work to do to come together as an orchestra.”

Team Ramstein responded to simulated events like a mass casualty event, an aircraft mishap, an active shooter, and a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive attack.

“Regardless of the circumstances and what we put our Airmen through, they outperformed what we expected of them. We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of the team,” said U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Ernesto Rendon, 86th Airlift Wing command chief.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Makayla Kaeppel, 86th Security Forces Squadron member, detains a simulated active shooter suspect during Exercise Operation Varsity 19-01 on Ramstein Air Base, Feb. 26. 86th SF members secured the scene before handing over the location to members of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The first iteration of Exercise Operation Varsity may have come to an end, but the second iteration is well underway to be held in May.

“You get a sense of pride that you put 100 percent out on the field and delivered results,” said August. “We did some amazing things, but just wait for the next one, we’re just going to bring even more.”