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An Air Force C-130 sits near a water-retention basin being built at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Base airfield management airmen are keeping the air traffic at full volume while the base undergoes massive construction to get ready for the transition from Rhein-Main Air Base to Ramstein next year.
An Air Force C-130 sits near a water-retention basin being built at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Base airfield management airmen are keeping the air traffic at full volume while the base undergoes massive construction to get ready for the transition from Rhein-Main Air Base to Ramstein next year. (Marni McEntee / S&S)
An Air Force C-130 sits near a water-retention basin being built at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Base airfield management airmen are keeping the air traffic at full volume while the base undergoes massive construction to get ready for the transition from Rhein-Main Air Base to Ramstein next year.
An Air Force C-130 sits near a water-retention basin being built at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Base airfield management airmen are keeping the air traffic at full volume while the base undergoes massive construction to get ready for the transition from Rhein-Main Air Base to Ramstein next year. (Marni McEntee / S&S)
A C-130 comes into view as its pilot practices a touch-and-go landing near a construction project Tuesday at Ramstein Air Base.
A C-130 comes into view as its pilot practices a touch-and-go landing near a construction project Tuesday at Ramstein Air Base. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Ramstein’s airfield management team is engaged in a high-speed balancing act.

Its airmen must juggle air operations at one of the busiest bases in the Air Force while helping coordinate work schedules and safety standards for dozens of construction projects around the airfield.

Neither mission can wait. At least 90 flights take off or land at Ramstein daily, carrying troops and cargo from Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Africa, as well as ill and injured patients from the war zones and around Europe.

All this air traffic has to work around a $400 million construction project to prepare the base to take over airlift operations from Rhein-Main Air Base in December 2005.

“We’re sustaining a high operations tempo while building a brand-new airlift base underneath our feet,” said Lt. Col. Clifford Puckett, commander of the 435th Operations Support Squadron.

“Ideally, we would shut the base down for 18 months. But, unfortunately, our nation’s airlift needs are such that we can’t take it offline,” Puckett said.

A trip around the airfield Tuesday gave a snapshot of how complicated it can be to get it all done. The 13 members of the squadron’s Airfield Management Team are helping manage more than 40 concurrent construction projects on the airfield, said Senior Master Sgt. Arturo Jayme, chief of the team.

All water, communications and fuel lines are being replaced. Two runways will be built along with several taxiways, two parking ramps and a state-of-the-art aircraft navigation system.

“Our airfield construction is by far the largest and most complex project taking place in the Air Force,” Jayme said.

To make matters worse, up to three of the team’s members are deployed at any one time, said Master Sgt. Keith Taylor, deputy chief of airfield management, who just returned from Iraq.

The ops tempo isn’t expected to slow down in the near future. In fact, some construction may be extended to night shifts this summer to keep the project on schedule, Jayme said.

And contractors are supposed to finish the airfield’s new runway so it can be used by January. If not, the current runway may have to be shut down earlier to allow for emergency repairs.

“I don’t see 2004 being any quieter than 2003,” Puckett said.

Team honored

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The Air Force has named Ramstein’s Airfield Management team the best in the service for 2003, according to a news release.

Part of the 435th Operations Support Squadron, the team was lauded for managing more than 40 airfield construction projects while ensuring that the base continued its busy strategic airlift mission.

The Air Force also named Senior Master Sgt. Arturo Jayme, chief of airfield management, as the Airfield Management senior noncommissioned officer of the year.

Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Stackhouse was named the team’s Terminal Instrument Procedures Specialist of the Year.

— Marni McEntee

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