Operation Varsity tests base, Airmen readiness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen here wrapped up the latest iteration of Operation Varsity Oct. 23, 2020 after nearly two weeks of responding to a series of events, simulations and sirens.

Exercise OV 20-04 began Oct. 13 and tested the sustainability and readiness of base personnel in events varying from deployment scenarios to simulated air and ground attacks.

“In future conflicts, we will have some Airmen deploy at a moments notice to forward locations to support the conflict at hand, however we will have other Airmen remain and support from here,” said Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander. “We have to be ready to defend our base and keep the air mobility mission on track...our nation depends on us.”

In conjunction with this exercise, the wing deployed Airmen and several C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to Poland to participate in the Aviation Detachment Rotation, and the wing hosted a NATO fly-in featuring German, Belgian and Dutch Airmen and aircraft to improve how NATO forces integrate and plan operations.

Although the base held a three-day exercise in September, this was the first Phase I and Phase II exercise of the year. Ramstein normally holds OV exercises every quarter, but the base paused the exercise schedule earlier this year to balance efforts with mission partners and provide real-world support to areas impacted by COVID-19. For this exercise, planners and unit leaders ensured participants followed strict health and safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

”Every member has to wear a mask and sanitize when they enter and exit rooms,” said Maj. Benn Slikker, 86th Airlift Wing Inspector General director of readiness. “It is something that the IG has continued to evaluate to ensure that the rules are being followed.”

While experiences differed, many Airmen found themselves tasked with doing their jobs in a much more stressful environment than usual.

”For the Airmen on the ground turning wrenches, it’s being able to do their mission while they are working with communication issues,” Slikker said. “They are in elevated alarm conditions with additional gear they have to wear testing their ability to do their day-to-day job while experiencing additional stress.”

One of the key goals of every exercise is improving base readiness and response to simulated threats, and the scenarios build readiness skills that most Airmen do not get to practice during normal work weeks.

”These skills are perishable,” Slikker said. “If you lose them, the safety and security of the airfield and our mission will be degraded.”

Another key to exercise success is cooperation and proper planning.

“We have up to 100 wing inspection team members who have been working diligently over the last six months to put together these scenarios and sequence them in a manner that gives the base the ability to survive and operate in a contested environment,” Slikker said. “No exercise is planned by one person or even one team.”

Maintaining base readiness is yet another way Airmen help maintain the 86 AW’s title of “World’s Best Wing.”

“As the gateway to the world, Ramstein has to remain open and operational, no matter what threats exist,” Olson said. “Over the past two weeks, we have proven we can do that.”

The OV series is planned to continue into 2021.