Take care of what we have — our installations

by Lt. Col. Jarrett Purdue and Senior Master Sgt. Tyron Gagnon
86th Civil Engineer Squadron commander and 86th CES superintendent

Many of you are familiar with the Rifleman’s Creed, “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”

In the Air Force, our rifles are our aircraft and space systems that give us unrivaled speed, range and flexibility to deter, monitor and hold at risk any target on earth at all times. Unlike the surface combat forces of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, our weapons systems require one asset to begin and end all missions: the air base.

Airmen fight from our bases, which makes them critical to the successful defense of our country and our allies. Therefore, remember to take care of what you have.

Currently, we operate 1,300 Air Force facilities worth about $9 billion across the KMC — our weapons platform — which supports our various missions. Take a look around your facility. Is it ready for the mission? Are you using the space you have efficiently or are you wasting energy and ever-decreasing maintenance resources by holding on to more than you need? Is it clean and orderly. Are paint and insulation materials in good repair? Are doors being blocked open? Are you keeping
the carpets clean so they last as long as possible?

The list goes on and on, but without your facility your mission will be impacted, and if enough facilities are deteriorated the mission will eventually fail.

If your facility houses a critical mission, you may have a backup generator. When did you test it last? Did you operate all your critical systems while on generator power and run it for a sufficient length of time to ensure everything is working properly?

A recurring problem we have is units turning away the engineers when they come to perform generator checks. This happens because they are disruptive, but if your facility’s systems are set up properly, it should be seamless. In some cases you will never know a particular system will fail during a power outage because you’ve never tested it. That’s not a risk worth taking.

We also maintain 2,000 military family housing units in the KMC and 16 Air Force dormitories comprising nearly 1,500 rooms. For both accompanied and unaccompanied housing we are sometimes surprised and saddened at how our residents treat their neighborhoods and living areas.

We always say times have changed and that our members don’t have the same respect as an older generation had, but this is perhaps more urban legend than truth.

Our Airmen and Soldiers today are amazing professionals. However, a mindset that base facilities are here to be used and “someone else” will take care of things for us still prevails. This mindset plagues our force and is a reason we walk into dormitory rooms and can’t see the floor underneath all the dirty clothes and trash, or in our family housing where one family recently decided to allow their pets to urinate and defecate on the floors of the house, or when people dump their trash on the ground waiting for “someone else” to come by and pick it up for them.

This is a culture that requires attention from all levels of leadership, and one that requires discipline for members that disregard policies and procedures when no one is looking. Sometimes our sense of pride in the appearance of our facilities and homes gets put under pressure when we are overwhelmed with current duties, but a team that takes care of what they have will come together to ensure
the team continues to win.

Despite having such a large quantity of base housing, about 75 percent of our military population, and of course all of our U.S. civilian employees and their families, live off base. We track approximately 13,000 rental units scattered throughout 300 villages within a 20-mile radius of Ramstein and Kaiserslautern.

My squadron is dedicated to supporting the German-American partnership that exists to supply houses for our members, as without it our mission would fail.
We are also dedicated to supporting you and your families, and we recently made available another resource by publishing a summary of the German Landlord-Tenant Code to our housing Web page www.ramstein.af.mil. This code is vital to our off-base residents’ understanding of the German legal system.

Just like when you lived in the U.S., the Air Force has no legal authority over your rights or responsibilities as an off-base tenant. A housing lease is a private contract between a tenant and a landlord that is governed by German law. The housing office is here to assist members in finding a home, ensure your housing allowance entitlement is correct, and provide landlord-tenant conflict mediation when necessary. To maintain this critical capability we ask that you take care of what you have by being a good neighbor, cleaning up after yourself and helping others when in need, German or American.

The Rifleman’s Creed closes with, “My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country.” The Air Force’s rifles depend on the base infrastructure and the facilities to launch and operate. Without effective, capable facilities from our airfield to our command centers to our homes, our mission will fail.

We must take care of what we have to uphold the Air Force’s proud tradition of ensuring global security.