52nd Mission Support Group: the foundation of the wing

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Boasting cops, firefighters, housing, warehouses, eateries, power lines, phone lines, dotted lines and more, the 52nd Mission Support Group may seem more like a small town than a robust collection of Air Force specialties and assets.

That's why Col. Jodine Tooke, 52nd MSG commander, likened herself to a mayor of a small town, overseeing about 3,000 Airmen and civilians - nearly 50 percent of the work force stationed here.

"When people ask me what I do, I often tell them I'm a mayor of a small town," Colonel Tooke said. "I handle everything from the protection at the main gate all the way to first response for in-flight emergencies on the airfield, including the support for infrastructure and facilities."

The 52nd MSG is made up of seven squadrons - more than any other group in the wing - with twice as many people as that of the 52nd Maintenance Group and nearly four times as many people as that of the 52nd Operations Group. The squadrons include security forces, logistics readiness, contracting, communications, civil engineering, force support and a support unit at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany.

But these units would be nonexistent if the mission they prop up was not here.
"The decision our Air Force has made in partnering with our European allies drives the need for a fighter presence, and in order to ensure that a fighter squadron can operate, it effectively requires the support functions. We really are fundamentally, simply, a support organization," Colonel Tooke said.

Like the foundation of a house, these support functions are often invisible to those who stand upon them. From the civil engineers who test the water people use here daily, to the communications technicians who maintain active phone and Internet connections for Airmen to communicate, to the loggies who make deployment possible, these functions are essential to mission effectiveness, Colonel Tooke said.

"Many of our functions are transparent and those transparent functions are the ones I think people overlook," she said. "You see a security forces guard at the gate, so in that way, they're visible, but there are other functions that aren't so visible - for instance, our contracting specialists help acquire equipment and services to safely keep deicing fluid runoff out of the environment.

"There are a lot of just-in-time things that happen, but they don't happen without planning and expertise."

One such "just -in-time" task was preparing weapons qualification for a group of last-minute deployers. The 81st Fighter Squadron, currently deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with its fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, needed additional pilots, maintainers and support Airmen for the latter half of its tour.

With less than 24 hours notice, the security forces Combat Arms Training and Maintenance team organized the necessary training, qualifying all of the deployers on their weapons during a weekend session of back-to-back shooting.

"That's an example of our security forces providing the necessary training to the deploying warrior in order to meet the mission requirement," Colonel Tooke said. "And we do that all the time in a lot of different areas."

Even further reaching, the colonel explained, is the group's responsibility to assist tenant units and communities, such as the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe, the 726th Air Mobility Squadron, geographically-separated units and the Canadian post stationed here.

"For us, mission always comes first - it really has to," Colonel Tooke said. "That said, people make it happen, so you've got to take care of those people. And taking care of those people isn't just giving them what they want - it's giving them what they need to succeed."

Whether the 52nd MSG supports 10 people or 10,000, Colonel Tooke emphasized how imperative stewardship is to the group's success.

"As the mission support group, we are entrusted with resources - be they people or facilities - from the American people," she said. "They've essentially gifted those things to us, and we need to take care of them as best we can to execute the mission at hand."

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles focusing on the Airmen and units of the 52nd Mission Support Group.