RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Tech Sgt. Josh Burch was frustrated. He and a team of people from across his unit, the 86th Civil Engineer Group, had worked very hard to improve the unit’s heritage room, which is called Keiler’s after the 86th CEG mascot, which is the biggest, baddest wild boar in the pack. However, people were not always showing the same sense of pride in ownership.
Josh, Airman 1st Class Anna Porter, and many others had poured their hearts into decorating and maintaining the space for their team members to connect with one another, celebrate achievements and promote resiliency.
At first, Josh placed signs saying things like “If you want to be able to use this space in the future, clean up when you’re done!” and “If it’s not yours, don’t touch!” It didn’t work. People still neglected the room, and now fewer people wanted to use it.
He voiced his frustration to us as his command team. Our advice to Josh? Don’t lead people with fear and greed, instead - inspire them.
He removed all of the negatively framed signs and replaced them with positive images. He found an artist to paint a mural of the new unit ethos intended to inspire Airmen. Anna put up signs that said “Everything here was donated by people that love you.” Lastly, Josh erased the “CLEAN UP!” message on the chalkboard and wrote something that still inspires us to this day: “Rules of Keiler’s: Take Care of Your Family, Take Care of Your Home, Ask For Help, Be Legendary.”
He then threw a huge family-friendly resiliency day to bring all of the people out to connect in this new place. The turnaround was instant and indeed legendary. It was not long before people were showing up unsolicited to clean up, even on weekends. The area became a space that connected an entire 1,400-person unit on a completely new level. It created unity, trust, and togetherness, which promoted a team mentality. This carried over to the mission of the organization, and it was tangible and significant.
At the request of the Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander, and as part of the wing’s Facilitate Installation Excellence line of effort, the 86th CEG has been applying this concept across the installation over the past two years to help encourage base personnel to have a sense of ownership and pride in the appearance of the base’s facilities and common spaces.
Rather than simply posting signs about litter and punishing non-compliance, similar to the fear approach above, the team decided to approach the problem differently.
Leaders believe that those who live and work on Air Force installations in the Kaiserslautern Military Community do have pride in them. It is our job to, first, make it easier for base personnel by improving 86th CEG processes and base functionality, and second, to inspire people to invest in the mission, the Airmen, and their own pride in their installation.
To improve processes and functionality, we completely reconfigured trash can placement at bus stops, the pond, the passenger terminal and other known hot spots. We improved contract structures for both trash pickup and base landscaping, and also started a ‘House/Yard of the Month’ program. We are still working on improving systems for bulk trash pickup for housing residents.
We are investing in more tools available to base personnel, to include a fleet of power washers in the U-Fix-It store and continue to host large semi-annual base cleanup days. Most notably, we invested significant leadership time and re-invented the Facility Engineer Team (aka “weeds and seeds duty”), from the worst additional duty on base into the Facilities and Leadership Excellence (FLEX) program, which inspires all the Airmen who pass through it.
Hundreds of former FLEX Airmen are now in your units passing on both their pride in installation excellence as well as a deep knowledge of how to work with 86th CEG and use the assets we have to help you care for your own facilities.
Witnessing a change can be awe-inspiring, like the moment we lined Kisling Memorial Avenue with American flags for Independence Day weekend. Onlookers felt compelled to stop and take pictures to capture the moment, where one defender guarding the fate told us “It brings the base to life and makes me more proud to do my job.”
To inspire the people of Team Ramstein, we’ve made a series of small investments from varying funding sources over two fiscal years to forge symbols of pride and heritage in visible places around our installation.
After garnering incredibly positive feedback on the placement of the F-4 Phantom II in the traffic circle near the post office, we created a specific goal in our wing strategic objectives to construct something inspiring in every major traffic circle.
To celebrate German Unity Day Oct. 3rd, we unveiled the Berlin Wall in the BX traffic circle and lined Kisling with German Flags. You most recently saw NATO flags flying with pride during the Ukraine Defense Consultative group meeting of world leaders here.
To complete our remaining five major traffic circles, we worked through government contracting processes to hire local artists and construction companies to help us celebrate our heritage and inspire our Airmen.
All of those projects will have grand unveiling events over the next six months.
You may have felt a swelling of pride and inspiration sweep over the base this week as we unveiled a bronze Keiler digging into the infrastructure at the opposite end of Lincoln Boulevard near the 86th CEG. This recognizes the heritage of the 86th CEG, which was named the Air Force’s Best Civil Engineer Unit in 2021.
The NATO traffic circle near the east gate will pay tribute to the world’s greatest tactical airlift squadron by paying homage to our best-in-the-Air-Force maintenance group professionals. The 86th MXG and 721st AMOG won both the Air Force’s Best Small and Large Maintenance Units of the Year in 2021. It will also pay tribute to the heritage of air mobility professionals from World War II with a life-sized C-46 Commando aircraft tail and propeller.
The traffic circle near the 86th Mission Support Group headquarters will include a tribute to Operation Allies Refuge, along with carved sandstone emblems of our mighty operations, maintenance, medical and 86th MSG units.
The Global Gateway traffic circle near the Shoppette will feature a large cast-aluminum sculpture dedicated to the three wings that make up the Global Gateway: the 86th Airlift Wing, 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing.
Finally, the Vogelweh/Kapaun traffic circle will proudly display the bust of Father Emil Kapaun, who is the air stations namesake and a Medal of Honor recipient. The traffic circle will feature a flower garden including a metal art succession spiral with inspirational quotes about hope and resiliency.
Every major organization will get a traditional German carved sandstone emblem near their headquarters to include our tenants, our command headquarters units, and our local host nation community partners. The goal is to demonstrate our commitment to each other and the united team we have at Ramstein, while strengthening a legacy of pride and heritage across the installation.
The 86th AW leadership team is extremely proud of how our Airmen have exemplified Installation Excellence. The enormous success of this all-hands effort caught the attention of Air Force senior leaders, making us a finalist for the Commander in Chief’s Installation Excellence Award.
Team Ramstein has remained ready and resilient through COVID lockdowns, OAR, and now the Ukraine invasion. It is evident that our Airmen care for one another, and we must continue investing our time and resources to build pride and connectedness across our base, our units and our people. Doing so is a top priority, and we sincerely hope that you take advantage of our new processes and tools that the 86th CEG offers to care for your facilities.
We also hope that when you drive down Kisling Memorial Avenue adorned with flags, or drive by one of our new heritage traffic circles, you are inspired to follow those four rules that a passionate NCO once wrote on a chalkboard: “Take Care of Your Family, Take Care of Your Home, Ask For Help, Be Legendary.”