Wing members venture to Germany during annual tour

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Thirty-one Reservists from the 69th Aerial Port Squadron conducted annual tour here June 2-17 to support their active duty counterparts in the 723rd Aerial Port Squadron. Ramstein Air Base is home to U.S. Air Forces in Europe Headquarters.

Five members of the 459th Mission Support Flight supported units at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and a 459th Air Refueling Wing staff member assisted the chaplaincy here.

The missions were as diverse as the Airmen who participated in them.

"Unlike the (unit training assemblies) which are more akin to classroom training, here we got hands-on training working side-by-side with active duty doing everything from pallet building and passenger terminal support to even handling human remains," said Senior Master Sgt. Frederic Johnson, 69th Aerial Port Squadron superintendent of special handling.

Sergeant Johnson said his mission in Germany was particularly humbling.

"When we first arrived, we brought six boxes of supplies over to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to comfort the troops there - they were really touched and we were proud to be able to do that for them," the senior NCO said.

Liberators meet the Sabers

"I got to see the future," said Tech. Sgt. Dionne Adams, a 459th Mission Support Flight personnelist who joined the 52nd Operations Group at Spangdahlem AB during the two-week tour. The unit is among the first consolidated commander's support staffs in U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

Sergeant Adams said she and fellow 459th MSF colleagues Master Sgt. Ralf Lautieri and Staff Sgts. Cornelius Service, Papa Faal, and Lisa Arsenault-Nepa got first-hand knowledge of the "virtual experience" while supporting different units in Spangdahlem AB and the Bitburg Annex.

"This is the first time I've ever been able to go to a unit and get up and running on a computer within 24 hours," Sergeant Adams said. "I was able to contribute to the mission and access streamlined electronic data almost immediately."

Sergeant Adams added everything from enlisted and officer performance reports to personnel information files and outprocessing checklists can now be obtained through the Air Force Personnel Center's virtual military personnel flight Web page.

Additionally, nearly all medical records are electronic, which helped create smoother patient flow, accelerate outprocessing and more effectively organize patient sick call.

Administrative programs such as the Military Personnel Data System and Personnel Systems Management are a mouse click away for records managers who once pored over paper files.

"I don't think I even saw anyone use a 'Holey Joe' (manila distribution envelope) the entire time I was there," Sergeant Adams said. "Routing and endorsing documents was incredibly simple and I could track suspenses for an entire unit."

Spiritual guidance

Staff Sgt. Vanessa Thomson, 459th Air Refueling Wing chaplain assistant, said she was unsure of what to expect when she arrived to assist the chaplains at Ramstein AB's 435th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, where warrior patients transit the aeromedical evacuation system worldwide.

"We saw people returning from downrange; some of them were injured so I was afraid to look, thinking I might start crying," Sergeant Thomson said.

But Sergeant Thomson said she looked anyway.

"Once I looked into their eyes, I felt a deep sense of appreciation for people who'd been in battle to protect us," the NCO said.

The chaplain assistant said the awesome responsibility of transporting injured Soliders, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who were or on their way back home or passing through to further care crossed rank and gender lines.

"It was interesting that there were mostly women carrying these litters of wounded military people and medical equipment," Sergeant Thomson said. "I was worried that I might get tired, but there was such an adrenaline rush when you realize what they put on the line for us; it was easy to be tough and carry all of them."

Sergeant Johnson said members of the 459th ARW engaged in a wide spectrum of tasks to make themselves invaluable to the units they temporarily joined.

"A lot of our missions directly supported the Global War on Terrorism and we were right there in lock step with our active duty brethren, who were very grateful for our help," Sergeant Johnson said. "There was no distinction between us and them except for the patches on our uniforms."