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Members of the 86th and 786th Civil Engineer Squadrons test ground density at a mock fuel-storage site set up for Exercise Silver Flag at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Members of the 86th and 786th Civil Engineer Squadrons test ground density at a mock fuel-storage site set up for Exercise Silver Flag at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — More than 250 airmen from around Europe have transformed a muddy corner of Ramstein Air Base into a base you might find in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait.

A tent city — a bank of generators, a chow hall and cooking area complete with tinned rations — is up and running at the fictional deployment area.

It’s all part of exercise Silver Flag, a training program for 260 U.S. Air Forces Europe troops to get them ready to deploy more quickly and efficiently, said Chief Master Sgt. Den Bushnell of Ramstein’s Construction and Training Squadron.

The exercise, which usually includes only support forces, such as civil engineers and services airmen, is larger than ever. For the first time, security forces, a communication unit, personnel and medics are on board to bring greater realism.

“When you go downrange, everyone has to operate together, but you don’t always train together,” Bushnell said. This exercise is meant to change that trend.

The exercise is highlighting some rough spots, said Master Sgt. Chris Robbins of the 100th Security Forces Squadron from RAF Mildenhall, England. Robbins said the exercise is not in sync with the security forces’ regular training regimen.

“Because it’s the first time this is being done, there will be some knots to work out,” he said.

About one-quarter of the airmen at the exercise are new to the Air Force, so they haven’t been to a deployed camp yet. They’ll see things at Ramstein that they’re sure to see in Iraq, such as a water purification system that makes life possible in the desert, said Staff Sgt. Craig Conrad of the training squadron.

Explosive ordnance experts are studying how to defuse bombs like the type commonly used in Iraq against U.S. troops, said Lt. Col. Rick Brubaker, squadron commander and exercise leader.

The exercise started with four days of classroom instruction, then the troops set up the mock base camp, where they will live and work until Sunday, Brubaker said.

It is the first of seven such exercises scheduled for this fiscal year.

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