RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Up until recently, a global pandemic was something most people only heard of in books and movies. Zombie apocalypses, doomsdays and viruses that infect the world in a matter of days seemed like pure science fiction.
As coronavirus disease 2019 turns fiction into reality and upends daily life across the globe, a special group on Ramstein Air Base formed on March 12 to plan and coordinate all COVID-19 response measures to ensure the base is postured to meet each challenge and able to continue accomplishing the mission.
Known as the Operational Planning Team, subject matter experts from across the installation sync up daily to provide unit status updates, prepare plans for the wing, and recommend solutions to complex challenges. Communication is key during uncertain times and OPTs allow for a crossflow of information in a face-to-face setting, even when the rest of the base cut back on in-person meetings. The end result is continued operations with minimal mission standstill.
“The big thing for us in the Kaiserslautern Military Community is lots of planning efforts for using airlift assets,” said Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, at Monday’s virtual town hall. “Everything from ‘how do we move test kits from places like geographically separated units’ to ‘how do we move American citizens around the theater or back to the United States?’ How do we use that professional airlift function, and how do we continue the gateway to the world? It’s an interesting time, and the next few weeks are going to be instrumental in what we do at our installation.”
As a major hub in Europe, Ramstein plays an important role in the reception, staging and onward movement of personnel and supplies. One of many issues tackled by the OPT has been preparing for a potential increase in transient aircrew and other personnel including American citizens who may stop here before departing for their final destination. Now, the base is able to receive aircrew and other personnel, provide necessary support while they’re here and help get them on their way to their next destination. All of this is achieved while providing health screenings and keeping personnel appropriately separated in compliance with social distancing.
The OPT also worked through changes as the installation increased Health Protection Conditions up to Charlie status. At each level, SMEs addressed how their respective units could maintain the mission and the challenges they faced.
“The wing commander is relying on this group of subject matter experts to make recommendations and plan for what may happen so the wing is ready to respond when called upon,” said Maj. David Mackintosh, 86th Operations Support Squadron chief of weapons and tactics and lead OPT planner. “COVID-19 hasn’t stopped our mission. The combatant commanders we support still rely on the unique capabilities we provide, so our job is to continue to give senior leaders options when they need them.”
Thanks to continuous planning, communication and the wing’s ability to flex when necessary, Ramstein Air Base and its mission partners remain poised and ready to respond to any challenge.