Where mission meets might: 86 AW and 786 CES

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Alexander Nelson, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
  • 786th Civil Engineer Squadron

Over the course of the past year, my fellow 86th Airlift Wing squadron commanders have provided leadership insight from their experiences in command. I wanted to take this opportunity to build upon their insight and expand it by highlighting the leadership opportunities that are brought forth to the Airmen of the mighty 786th Civil Engineer Squadron. Through their leadership capabilities, the Airmen within this legendary squadron successfully execute the new 86th AW mission set forth by Brigadier General Olson: Build Airmen, Project Power, and Support Partners.

86th AW mission

Build Airmen:

Due to the 786th CES’ sheer size, we are able to provide leadership opportunities early in all our Airmen’s careers. Whether you’re a first-term Airman who demonstrates an interest in leading others, or you’re an Airman who just tacked on a pair of Senior Airman stripes, the 786th CES will provide the people, equipment and freedom of maneuver to execute incredible tasks.

As a result, Airmen have the chance to assume responsibility and to lead. This introduction to leadership roles ensures Airmen will have a strong foundation to take on further responsibilities and demands that are incurred as they move up in rank. A strong leadership foundation also ensures adaptability, innovative solutions and good followership.

For instance, take the 786th CES Facility and Leadership Excellence (FLEX) Team Leader, Senior Airman James Frick. Frick joined the 786th CES Water and Fuels Systems Maintenance shop in 2015 as an Airman First Class. In building his leadership foundation, he is now responsible for leading a 10-person team of First-Term Airmen, which rotates every two weeks. Frick demonstrates ‘Building Airmen’ by educating the team on being successful in the U.S. Air Force, hosting regular guest speakers and instilling a sense of purpose and pride. He also keeps each new member motivated to maintain the professional appearance of the Ramstein, Kapaun, Vogelweh and Landstuhl installations.

Participation in the FLEX Team also helps ‘Build Airmen’ by providing them the opportunity to generate new networks and friendships with other Airmen outside of their squadrons. FLEX Team graduates leave with an enhanced knowledge of service, a sense of accomplishment, and pride for their contributions to installation excellence.

The 786th CES offers a variety of programs for all Airmen who are committed to improving their leadership foundation, strengthening their resolve and expanding their technical knowledge. Every month, officers and SNCOs meet online, or outside when the weather cooperates, for the 786th CES Leadership Luncheon. During this luncheon, a SNCO and/or officer presents a summary on a leadership topic of their choice and facilitates a discussion that incorporates new ideas to enhance everyone’s leadership foundation. To strengthen resolve, every quarter the unit breaks for a squadron Resiliency Tactical Pause. This pause consists of trained 786th CES facilitators/volunteers who interact directly with Airmen in small-group settings to discuss resiliency tactics as well as address current issues and events facing Airmen. We like to think of these pauses as a quarterly GRIT down-day on steroids. These are not an 86th AW requirement, but consistent participant feedback proves that these RTPs are not only beneficial, but also much appreciated.

To improve our Airman’s warfighting capabilities, master scheduler, Staff Sgt. William Thomas from the 786th CES Expeditionary Engineering section hosts a Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force day every month. These events consist of hands-on training in Defensive Fighting Positions, Land Navigation, Tactical Convoy Operations, Integrated Defense, Troop Leading Procedures, Mishap Survey, and equipment familiarization.

For those that are looking to further expand their leadership or technical knowledge, the 786th CES hosts Professional Development Seminars on topics such as bullet writing, financial management, spreadsheet optimization, as well as Tririga work task database system refreshers. The 786th CES recognizes that there is always room for continued leadership development and fosters a culture of self-improvement.

Project Power:

The 786th CES projects power; both in the KMC and abroad. In the KMC, the 786th CES maintains all high/low voltage power, backup power, water, sewage/fuel transport, HVAC, structural support, and entomology to 1,300 buildings at 13 bases, including Ramstein AB.

We maintain structural requirements, pavements, aircraft arresting systems, signage, interior/exterior lighting, locks, painted surfaces, airfield lighting, special purpose gardens, alarms, airfield vegetation, and water production plants. We run CE Customer Service, the Requirements & Optimization section, the U-Fix-It Store, Snow/Ice Control teams, and the Service Contracts section which provides Contracting Officer Representative surveillances to $16.3M a year in contracts, with our close partners from the 700th Contracting Squadron.

Contracts include refuse, custodial, grounds maintenance, recycle center, COVID-19 emergency disinfection, and maintenance contracts for antivehicle barrier, elevators, traffic lights, and about 22 other contract requirements. In short, we keep every facility, utility, and the airfield operational on all 86th AW installations in Germany. This mammoth effort enables four wings, three headquarters and 85 tenant units to execute their air, space, and cyberspace missions all over the world, 24 hours a day.

Additionally, the 786th CES trains 10,400 Airmen in four countries to respond to natural disasters and enemy attacks to safeguard their local mission and abroad. We sustain a very high readiness posture allowing us to project our power anywhere in the world with very short notice.

Emergency Management experts like Master Sgt. Jessica Clayton and her incredible team teach Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defense; Control Center; Emergency Management Representative; CBRN Key Leaders; and Base Emergency Preparedness Orientation courses. Expeditionary Engineering leader, Master Sgt. Graeme Clouden, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal scheduler, Staff Sgt. Joseph Griffin, and their phenomenal teams maintain a vast array of training and readiness requirements to project CE power throughout the area of responsibility at any time. Clouden along with Pavements and Heavy Equipment master, Master Sgt. Daniel Bailey, and EOD professional, Master Sgt. Justin Beasley, are also organizing, training, and equipping the 786th CES by utilizing the most advanced programs/equipment in the USAF such as Rapid Airfield Damage Repair within an Agile Combat Employment construct, thus enabling them to deploy to forward operating airstrips and further project the mission.

Support Partners:

The 786th CES supports its partners, both in Germany and beyond. Not only is the 786th CES EOD flight the KMC’s primary American EOD responder, but they also deploy to support partners at forward operating bases and assist Very Important Persons Support Activity missions enabling distinguished visitors like U.S. and foreign political leaders to travel.

What really makes the 786th CES EOD flight unique is their support for European and Asian EOD teams. Through years of trust and understanding, 786th CES EOD flight experts like Master Sgt. David Gerig, Staff Sgt. Emilio Solis, Staff Sgt. Jonathon McCauley, and Senior Airman Edward Uhrick have executed Humanitarian Mine Action missions where they train, advise, assist, and mentor EOD units in multiple countries. By working closely with these units, they fast-track them to be more proficient, which increases safety to these countries’ citizens and their military’s missions.

Additionally, they have built long lasting alliances and friendships with EOD teams across Europe. Through these multinational networks, EOD professionals have trained, responded, and supported exercises with these EOD units. By working together, the 786th CES EOD flight has enhanced their in-house programs in addition to their allies’ programs, which enables better emergency responses in Europe. The 786th CES EOD flight is just one of many great examples of how generous support and forming alliances helps support our partners at home and abroad.

In conclusion, the people that make up the mighty 786th CES exemplify the 86th AW mission. Through three very distinct flights, leaders Build Airmen of all backgrounds and ranks in the 786th CES by investing time and energy through an assortment of leadership and resiliency programs. We also maintain the base, which enables Team Ramstein to Project Power and deploy to forward locations to ensure proper base maintenance. Lastly, we dedicate programs to Support Partners in order to strengthen connectivity within the 86th AW and ensure interoperability abroad.

Engineers, lead the way!