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Airlifter of the Week: Airman discovers WWII relic

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center senior controller, poses with an unexploded ordnance on a farm in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Aug. 2020.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center senior controller, poses with an unexploded ordnance on a farm in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Aug. 2020. Nelson discovered the UXO with his metal detector and immediately informed German polizei. (Courtesy photo)

A metal detector and a shovel belonging to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center senior controller, as shown at a farm in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Aug. 2020.

A metal detector and a shovel belonging to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center senior controller, as shown at a farm in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Aug. 2020. Nelson discovered an unexploded ordnance from WWII in the fields and informed German polizei about the relic. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center senior controller, receives a coin from Brig. Gen. Josh M. Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 23, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center senior controller, receives a coin from Brig. Gen. Josh M. Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 23, 2020. Nelson was recognized as Airlifter of the week for standardizing the maintenance operations center, developing and implementing an aircraft tow tracking system and discovering multiple unexploded ordnances in the area surrounding the Kaiserslautern Military Community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

 Staff Sgt. Tyler D. Nelson, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance operations center (MOC) senior controller, was recognized as Airlifter of the Week for his excellent work ethic and how he managed to potentially save lives outside of work with an innocent hobby.

Nelson, a husband and father, is from a small town in Michigan known as West Branch, where he grew up hiking, fishing, hunting and metal detecting. He describes the area as being very similar to Germany, with trees, grass and the ability to go outside without worrying about snakes.

“It’s a very small town,” Nelson said. “I think the whole county only has a couple thousand people. There’s a high school, one [area] that has the fast food and when I left they got a Wal-Mart. Everyone was excited. We even had a day in high school where we all drove our tractors to school.”

The birth of Nelson’s second son compelled him to seek a more family-friendly career.

“Having that second kid, I was working three jobs and I pretty much never saw my family during the week,” Nelson said. “I’d come home, sleep for a couple of hours, get up and go to the next job. I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I was never seeing them and it wasn’t a healthy relationship for me and my wife or me and the kids.”

This marked a turning point for Nelson, which would change his life for the better.

“I’d been thinking about joining the military for a couple of years and I had family who’d been in all the branches, so I just took that step and joined the Air Force,” Nelson said.

During the performance of his duties, he observed the inconsistencies between different shifts in the MOC and took the extra steps to alleviate it. His efforts increased the work center effectiveness and reduced training time by 50 percent.

“We had processes that were in place, but there wasn’t a whole lot of consistency between shifts,” Nelson said. “People would do one thing their way and the other shift would do it another way. There wasn’t any fluidity between shifts, so one of the controllers and I made a training booklet just to standardize all the processes so everything was the same. We printed out step-by-step instructions for how to do everything, so if anyone wasn’t sure what to do, they had a reference they could fall back on if they were on a shift by themselves on the weekend or something.”

Nelson also developed and implemented an aircraft tow tracking system, which enhanced the status information for aircraft ground activity. This improved training effectiveness and ensured accurate information was available for group and wing leadership.

“This system gives us a way to track who’s in charge of the aircraft, where they’re towing it from and to and how long it took, so if something happens on the ramp we know exactly what’s going on,” Nelson explained.

Last, but certainly not least, while he was out metal detecting on a nearby farm in August, Nelson discovered an unexploded ordnance from the World War II era, which had been shallowly buried.

“Typically, we find a lot of old plow blades, but once I started getting to the end of it, I saw the fuse on it,” Nelson said. “I backed up, composed myself and waited until the polizei experts came out and looked at it, then we called Explosive Ordnance Disposal.”

The UXO was identified as an 88 millimeter anti-aircraft shell, which EOD safely detonated.

“The farmer was crying,” Nelson said. “He was very nervous that his kids ran the tractors for so many years as well as him and his dad, so he was just very emotional.”

Since then, Nelson has discovered about ten more UXO’s, all of which have been safely disposed of without incident.

Not all heroes wear capes and Nelson has certainly shown his capabilities, whether it’s in the shop or enjoying a day outside with a metal detector. He and the 86th MXG are part of what makes Ramstein the World’s Best Wing.