Command looks ahead as USAFE turns 65
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — As U.S. Air Forces in Europe celebrates its 65th anniversary in midst of major changes, the command’s top officer predicts the service’s oldest major command will be around for decades to come.
Even with the introduction of more technology and long-range aircraft, there will continue to be a need for a significant presence in Europe, Gen. Tom Hobbins said.
“I think that there will always be an Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force component to an overall combatant command,” said Hobbins, who is one of 12 four-star officers in the Air Force.
“We are strong because we have interdependence among our services. And when I say interdependence, that means we are all strong in our own core elements, our own core capabilities and responsibilities.”
He added that a command also would be needed to continue good relations with European allies.
The Air Force’s top command in Europe, which oversees 41,000 active-duty, Reserve and civilian personnel, marked its birthday with a formal dinner and band concert on Thursday at the Officers’ Club at Ramstein Air Base. The U.S. military’s largest base in Europe is home to the command’s headquarters, known as USAFE for short.
German politicians and civic leaders attended the anniversary gala, which included a slide show chronicling USAFE’s history over more than six decades and musical performances by the command’s band.
Paintings offering snapshots of the command’s history ringed the banquet room as airmen dined.
Alfred Hoffman Jr., who is the U.S. ambassador to Portugal, served as the command’s special guest for the evening. Hoffman, a former Air Force fighter pilot who flew F-100s, was stationed at Ramstein Air Base 50 years ago this month. He said much has changed over the years.
“I would hardly recognize it,” he said.
More than 60 years ago, the command had a fleet of 17,000 airplanes and 450,000 people.
The command is considerably smaller today, flying about 220 aircraft and operating five main bases in Europe.
As the U.S. military shifts thousands of forces from overseas bases back to the United States, the Air Force is expected to reduce its number of airmen in Europe slightly over the next couple of years.
“I think you will see us become a lot more Net centric; we’re going to learn how to move information faster,” Hobbins said.
“We will become more efficient with our forces. So we’ll probably get a little bit smaller and along the way become more efficient so that we can handle the loss of people as we do those efficiencies.”
Ramstein will continue to be the military’s most important airlift hub for years to come as the “gateway to Europe,” he said.
Other services will probably share the use of the base in the next 50 years with the formation of a new Africa Command and the arrival of new aircraft such as the C-130J transport plane.
1942:U.S. Air Forces in Europe originated as the 8th Air Force. Flew heavy bombardment missions across Europe during World War II.
1945:The command was given its current name, U.S. Air Forces in Europe. At the time, USAFE had 17,000 airplanes and 450,000 people.
1948-1949:The command’s planes airlifted more than 1.6 million tons of food, fuel and medical supplies as part of the Berlin Airlift.
1973:USAFE headquarters moved from Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden, West Germany, to its present location at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Mid-1980s:The command had 25 main bases, 850 aircraft and more than 60,000 active-duty airmen.
1986:USAFE led Operation El Dorado Canyon. The strategic air strike targeted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for sponsoring international terrorism.
Late 1990:Moved more than 180 aircraft and 5,400 people to the Persian Gulf area in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. More than 3,000 patients treated at USAFE medical facilities during the war.
1992-1995:Airlifted supplies into war-torn Yugoslavia.
1995:Provided air protection over Bosnia-Herzegovina along with allies from NATO.
1999:Contributed forces to NATO-led air war over Kosovo, leading to the removal of Serb forces.
2001:Helped deliver 3,300 tons of humanitarian daily rations to northern Afghanistan, opened a base in Kyrgyzstan.
2003:Deployed 24 fighter aircraft, eight KC-135 tankers and nearly 2,400 people in Iraq. Provided airlift, logistical and medical support for deployed forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Today:Continues to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Engaged in numerous U.S. military exercises and military-to-military programs in Africa and the former Eastern bloc. Command consists of 41,000 active-duty, Reserve and civilian employees assigned to five main operating bases and 80 other locations. USAFE includes about 220 fighter, attack, tanker and transport aircraft.
— Source: USAFE