New program turns civic leaders into honorary commanders

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Edgar Grimaldo
  • 86th Airlift Wing

The 86th Airlift Wing held its first Honorary Commander Induction Ceremony, Feb. 4, 2022.

Civic and base leaders came together for the ceremony, marking the first time in the installation’s 70-year history that the program was inaugurated.

The Honorary Commanders program is designed to build stronger connections between armed forces and the surrounding communities.  It provides local community leaders the opportunity to see how the Air Force conducts its day-to-day operations, making members of the community feel like part of the unit.  At the same time, service members grow stronger relationships and learn more about the community from regular interactions with the civic leaders.

“Programs such as these create bridges and expand our communication with our amazing partners across the Kaiserslautern Military Community,” said Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander.  “I’m excited about this first group that were hand-selected with the help of our mayors, and I know this program is going to continue to flourish.”

“I am responsible for thousands of citizens of both the City and Union,” said Ralf Hechler, Mayor of Ramstein-Miesenbach City and Union Community. “And we have about seven and a half thousand Americans that live in our community alone. We all have different histories and it is important for us to immerse our cultures.”

“We make the decisions outside the fence,” the mayor added. “The U.S. military makes decisions inside the installations. I look at the connections between us. This program can open doors if there is some interest for Americans to see more of the community and vice-versa, inviting us on base to show us what they do. This is a German hometown—a home away from home.”

The first group of six inductees have diverse backgrounds including law, law enforcement, business, transportation, tourism, and event planning.  They now serve as honorary commanders to the wing’s six groups based at Ramstein.

“As a kid I always remembered there being big involvement with Ramstein Air Base,” said Mr. Jochen Krueck, 86th Medical Group honorary commander. “We were allowed to visit, walk in and freely walk around, but once the political and security climate changed, it all got very suddenly restricted. My goal is to bring back some of the community and social interactions that make the KMC what it once was.”

86 AW leadership hopes the program will help foster goodwill, understanding and support among the base and surrounding communities. 

Honorary Commanders

Mr. Johannes Freundorfer, 86th Civil Engineer Group

Mr. Johannes Kneip, 86th Logistics Readiness Group

Mr. Jochen Krueck, 86th Medical Group

Mr. Sascha Rickart, 86th Mission Support Group

Mr. David Peter Schoessler, 86th Maintenance Group

Mr. Frank Zimmer, 86th Operations Group