Ramstein Air Force Base, the USAF strategic Hub in Europe.

Since the end of the World War 2 the United States Of America had been keep a huge presence in Europe, expecially in Germany. Nowadays their presence has been largely reduce, and only about thirty thousand US army soldiers and about twenty hthousand USAF personel are now stationed on the old Continet. Still, such a power projection require a big effort to sustain all the personel deployed. The center of such an extrenous work it's now Ramstein AFB.

Ramstein area was design by French Engineer and build by German and immigrants workers by filling a swamp with thousand of train of rocks coming from the surrounding hills. The leveling required over a year with works on a 24/7 basis, these because there was a need of over 2 meters to cover the swamp area. Also the buildings for both Ramstein Air Station and Landsthul Air Base required a huge effort taking over three years to finish. After all about 270.000 Europeans employee worked on these projects from 1948 to 1953. Initially there wasn't a runway, but 4 years later Ramstein became Air Base join with Landsthul. This base has always been really important housing initially the Twelfth Air Force, later the Seventeenth Air force. Also the NATO used Ramstein AFB as Heaquarters, initially for the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force, nowadays it's the only NATO Allied Air Command. Besides these major command Ramstein has always been home of the 86th Airwing. In the past many fighter type operated under this wing, from the P-47, to the F-16 passing throug the F-4 (in many versions C/E/G) without forgetting the F-102. Many units had been part of the 86th Wing, like the 81st FS, and in the final years as Fighter Wing also the 512th TFS and the 526th TFS. After the end of the Cold War the wing changed from a Fighter to an Airlift Wing becaming the main intra-theater airlift throughout Europe, but also Africa and Middle East. Every since the 86th Airlift Wing has supported all the USA operation from JTF Atlas in South Africa, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and recently for the Ukraine Crisis.

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The largest squadron operating under the 86th Airlift Wing it's the 37th Airlift Squadron. Until 2009 it was equipped with sixteen C-130E, now it has fourteen C-130J-30 Super Hercules. As part of the 86th AW it's main task's to conduct airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation operations but also to enhance the cooperation with others European air force. The 37th AS it's one of the oldest, being activated in 1942 at Patterson Field Ohio, and almost immediatly moved to North Africa, to support the Eighth British Army. After that the 37th AS took part in the invasions of Sicily, Normandy and Netherland. After the end of the WW2 the squadron went back in the US until the Korean War erupted forcing the squadron to move once again these time in South West Asia, mostly in Japan. It stayed there until 57, when it went back to Langley, from where it deployed in many different location, amang the others RAF Milldenhall, Rhein-Main AB, and Ching Chaun Kang AB. In 1977 the squadron went to Rhein-Main AB from where it flew until the base closure in 1994, after that it moved to his actual home, Ramstein AFB. From this base he took part in many operations, from Desert Storm to Iraqi Freedom through Balcan Operations.

The sister unit at Ramstein AFB is the 76th Airlift Squadron that perform executive airlift missions across the world. His history runs since 1943 when its role was training training flight crews, later he had performed many transport missions from Suez Canal, Saigon, Grenada, Panama and Middle East. Ramstein after the closure of the Rhein-Mein AFB in Frankfurt has been the Gateway for Europe but has also been the nevralgic center of all the airlift missions in South-West Asia also due to the close-by Army Hospital. So it wasn't uncommon to be able to see about a dozen of C-17 landing each day with also a couple of C-5. Now with the withdrawn in the South West Asia the traffic it's reduced, but this is still the most busiest transport and troops air base in Europe.

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Text and Photo by Marco Sommacal