Gen. Tod D. Wolters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, visited the men and women of the 86th Airlift Wing Nov. 1, citing the wing’s operations and successes as a model, ranking it as the best he has seen in a career spanning more than three decades.
“I live on Ramstein, and this is renowned as a great installation,” Wolters said. “I’m here to tell you that it has just gotten better. This is the most squared away wing that I have ever seen in the history of my service to the United States Air Force. Its pieces and parts, and the sum that they create, are something that no other defense service will be able to replicate in our lifetimes.”
Credit goes to the men and women of the 86th that make this possible, Wolters added.
“It’s a testament to all of you; it’s a testament to our 21st century Air Force,” Wolters said.
Infrastructure resiliency was the theme for visits to several Ramstein units, which included stops at the 786th Civil Engineer Squadron Water Plant and the 86th Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Control Tower. Wolters was particularly impressed by the caliber of Airmen he met during these visits.
“I was briefed by a staff sergeant this morning, and I guarantee you that when I was a lieutenant colonel running a squadron, I was about half as smart and half as articulate as that staff sergeant,” Wolters said. “That’s the talent that our Air Force brings in today. And because we train so hard, we molded and grew that young Airman into a staff sergeant. And before you know it, you’ve got someone who is 26 years old, and they are talking to you with the same maturity and sageness of a CEO of a billion dollar corporation. That’s us. … That’s you. And we need to take advantage of that. We need to make sure that we’re so good that nobody wants to come out and fight you.”
Staff Sgt. Joshua Moore, 86th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, was among those who briefed Wolters. Moore’s team developed an innovative solution to the needs of the flying community for high-altitude missions, and shared his story with Wolters.
“It was awesome and rewarding,” Moore said. “It really shows a lot, coming from our leadership, when they recognize our team for what they do. We place a lot of pride in what we do at the pharmacy, and we are grateful to be recognized.”
Tech. Sgt. Samuel Stroman, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron, briefed Wolters on his unit’s efforts to instill pride and ownership in first-term Airmen through the beautification of the installation.
“I was honored and ecstatic to brief COMUSAFE and highly appreciative knowing that what we do on a daily basis does not go unnoticed,” Stroman said. “We try to convey to our Airmen how important they are to the mission’s success. Today’s experience solidified my efforts in this belief to maintain excellence in all we do.”
The tour concluded with an all-call with hundreds of Airmen of the Mighty 86th, where Wolters emphasized his priorities of trust, teamwork, and training. The language leaders use, down to particular pronouns, are of particular importance in promoting teamwork, said Wolters.
“I very rarely hear a conversation about success on this installation and the use of the word ‘I’ and ‘me,’” Wolters said. “Every time I talk to the great Airmen on this base in this wing, what I hear is ‘they did it’ (and) ‘we did it.’”
Such language allows teams to grow and thrive in shared successes and is the language of champions, Wolters said.
First Lt. Alane Schwartz, vehicle operations flight commander with the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, attended the all-call and agreed that it takes a team to accomplish the mission.
“This is my first assignment as a flight commander, and this was personally valuable for how I can grow as a leader in today’s Air Force,” Schwartz said. “But it’s not about us as leaders. It’s about working together as a team. We are not alone in what we do to accomplish the mission. My folks support USAFE and AFAFRICA missions each and every day. We may not touch the aircraft, but we are part of a team that makes our mission so successful.”
Adversaries should take great caution if they ever make the unwise decision to confront Team Ramstein Airmen, said Wolters.
“It starts with you, the world’s greatest Airmen,” Wolters said. “Because of your demonstrated successes, I am absolutely, positively convinced that if the enemy has to fight you, they’ll lose. You’re just that good.”