GSU represents heritage in own ‘frontier’

NATO AIR BASE GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany -- If you visited Kuhl Beans during the holiday season, you may have noticed a red stocking with "470 ABS" hung with the rest of the unit stockings and wondered what that unit was. Or, if you attended an Airman Leadership School graduation and heard someone yell "470th" followed by a hollering "TATANKA," you may have wondered what that meant.

The 470th Air Base Squadron is one of seven units assigned to the 52nd Mission Support Group, but it's located on NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen north of Spangdahlem Air Base. Although established in Germany, Geilenkirchen is uniquely located on the border of Germany and the Netherlands, and is a mere 20-minute drive from Belgium. The unit patch features a buffalo and is the reason for the unit shout. Tatanka means buffalo in the Lakota American Indian language.

Of the seven squadrons assigned to the 52nd MSG, the 470th ABS is the second smallest with less than 200 servicemembers and civilians assigned. Despite its size, the squadron's strength is through its diversity.

The members of the 470th ABS provide mission and operations support for U.S. Airmen assigned to NATO at four different installations. The largest unit the squadron supports is the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System at Geilenkirchen. This component has 20 large-frame aircraft and represents NATO's only operational flying organization.

The unit is also responsible for managing aircrew flight records via a host aviation records management function, a job that normally resides within an operations support squadron. Geilenkirchen's HARM office manages the third largest number of records in U.S. Air Forces in Europe, more even than Spangdahlem. The unit also offers many services that are normally aligned as wing staff agencies such as a comptroller, installation chapel services and a base legal office, and the largest flight within the unit is made up of 67 medics.

In addition to that, the squadron is responsible for the only Air Force-run temporary fuel ration card function and host nation customs customer service program that covers non-U.S., NATO people within USAFE. All in all, the 470th ABS is comprised of 36 different core Air Force specialty codes - 12 officer and 24 enlisted.

So the next time you see or hear something about the 470th ABS, you'll have a better understanding of your fellow Sabers at a geographically-separated unit. And back to our battle cry, "TATANKA!" If you've ever watched the movie Dances with Wolves, you're probably aware of what this means. The American buffalo is our unit mascot; and yelling that slogan is a reminder that here in the frontier, while isolated at a GSU, we still represent the heritage of our great nation marked by its resourcefulness and efficiency.