86 AW Command Post: The brains of the KMC

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Every day, thousands of people come in and out of Ramstein going about their business and accomplishing a host of missions.

Ramstein is part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community, which is the largest community of Americans outside the United States. The installation itself is a major hub for operations throughout Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

For a base of such magnitude, keeping track of what’s happening in the community can be a daunting challenge.

Airmen assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing Command Post tackle this challenge every day. The command post is responsible for sending emergency notifications to units, managing the emergency mass notification system, and providing command and control support to operations coming in and out of Ramstein.

“For most of our incidents here, we use quick-reaction checklists to respond,” said Master Sgt. Katrina Strother, 86th AW Command Post non-commissioned officer in charge of command post operations. “It gives us a detailed plan on how to take the information and who to notify of it. We give the commander the information he needs to make informed strategic decisions for the installation and for the local population.”

The 86th AW Command Post provides the largest command and control service for U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The unit also supports four wings and 39 geographically separated units across Europe.

While some units work a regular schedule and close for the weekends, command post never shuts down.

“We are a necessary part of the machine,” said Tech. Sgt. Melvyn Thompson, 86th AW Command Post senior controller. “We are the engine that drives Ramstein. Without us, commanders cannot make informed decisions to do their job. Without us, we can’t make notifications for incidents.”

Thompson added that command post Airmen are considered mission-essential personnel, which means they report for duty on time even in less-than-ideal conditions. Additionally, they may also be called in to work during their off times.

Airman 1st Class Jackson Dollar, 86th AW Command Post junior controller, added that command post Airmen must be always alert, saying one can never know how any shift will go.

“Sometimes at night, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on that can come up randomly out of the blue,” he said. “It’s really unpredictable, but overall I say it’s a good experience because I get to talk to high-up leadership and all that kind of stuff.”

Dollar expressed his pride in his job, adding that he acknowledges the importance of his mission even as a junior enlisted Airman.

“I kind of look at like we’re the eyes and ears of the base, and without us, we’re walking blind,” he said. “What I feel gets me up in the morning is how important our job is. I feel like the job is super important, and it’s an honor to do such important tasks as an airman first class.”