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Servicemembers watch the baseball playoffs from the United Services Organization's lounge's theater Thursday at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal.;
Servicemembers watch the baseball playoffs from the United Services Organization's lounge's theater Thursday at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal.; (Scott Schonauer / S&S)
Servicemembers watch the baseball playoffs from the United Services Organization's lounge's theater Thursday at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal.;
Servicemembers watch the baseball playoffs from the United Services Organization's lounge's theater Thursday at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal.; (Scott Schonauer / S&S)
Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Niklaus, right, and 1st Lt. Jason Wright take a break at the newly expanded USO center at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal on Thursday.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Niklaus, right, and 1st Lt. Jason Wright take a break at the newly expanded USO center at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal on Thursday. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)
Arthur Bonevich, an Army retiree from Newport News, Va., waits for his luggage in the new baggage claim area at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal on Thursday.
Arthur Bonevich, an Army retiree from Newport News, Va., waits for his luggage in the new baggage claim area at Ramstein Air Base's passenger terminal on Thursday. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)
Danielle Fleming, 4, rests her head on her family's luggage Thursday at the newly opened baggage claim area at the Ramstein Air Base passenger terminal.
Danielle Fleming, 4, rests her head on her family's luggage Thursday at the newly opened baggage claim area at the Ramstein Air Base passenger terminal. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)
Soldiers walk down one of the corridors in the new Ramstein Air Base, Germany, passenger terminal on Thursday. The expanded terminal has seen a spike in traffic with the upcoming closure of Rhein-Main Air Base.
Soldiers walk down one of the corridors in the new Ramstein Air Base, Germany, passenger terminal on Thursday. The expanded terminal has seen a spike in traffic with the upcoming closure of Rhein-Main Air Base. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Air Force Col. Jeffrey Derrick, commander of the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron, likes to call Ramstein Air Base’s new and improved air terminal a “wow facility.”

The reason: The first word visitors say when they walk through the modern, all-glass building with its wireless Internet hot spots, small theater and panoramic views of the flight line is, “Wow.”

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility that is very comparable to any commercial airport you see,” Derrick said.

Although construction on the terminal’s expansion isn’t finished, the new wing is already receiving passengers and many more are to come with this year’s closure of Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt.

The change means the base will see 30,000-35,000 passengers a month compared with its average of 10,000. On Wednesday, the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron — which runs the terminal — saw more passengers in one day than it typically sees in a week.

“We’re definitely feeling the impact of Rhein-Main closing,” said Capt. Brian Mitchell, officer in charge of passenger services.

The expanded terminal is smaller than many at busy commercial airports, but it has many of the amenities that some top terminals do not.

The most popular area is the United Service Organizations’ expanded lounge, where troops heading to or from the Middle East can relax or nap in a “quiet area,” sip cappuccino at the baggage claim’s bistro or watch a movie in theater-style seating.

“I’d say it’s one of the best military terminals I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Niklaus, a special operations pilot waiting for a flight.

“The wireless Internet is definitely a plus,” said Army Spc. Joshua Edwards.

The terminal’s two-story triangular main lobby, which designers borrowed from the shape of a stealth fighter, opened in 2002.

The Air Force has since added a wing to accommodate the spike in passengers.

New jetways — enclosed walkways commonly found at commercial airports — were used for the first time last Saturday, when a chartered flight, the Patriot Express, landed at Ramstein.

Due to construction delays, some parts of the expansion are still in the works and passengers must briefly walk outside to reach the new wing.

Two new gates are open for business, while a third will be done by the end of the year. The final phase, which will connect the baggage claim area, a new VIP lounge and gate-waiting areas will be finished in February, Derrick said.

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