Wi-Fi, roads and parking: How Ramstein is spending $700,000 in ‘best base’ prize money
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 21, 2019
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – When Ramstein Air Base got $700,000 in prize money for being named the Pentagon’s best Air Force installation earlier this year, wing leaders turned to airmen and their families for ideas on how to spend the money and improve life on base.
They got a slew of suggestions. After weeding out the unfeasible and unaffordable ones, they got to work.
So far, about $50,000 of the tax-free prize money has gone to fixing what was “a resounding area of concern for folks” – enlarging the narrow parking spaces in the two main lots outside Ramstein’s shopping mall, said Chief Master Sgt. Ernesto Rendon, the 86th Airlift Wing command chief.
About $184,000 is going to installing Wi-Fi at facilities across base and in dormitories for airmen throughout the Kaiserslautern area; $263,000 is being used to pave an access road on base and reduce traffic in the commissary parking lot, and $50,000 will be spent installing 24/7 access at the South Side Fitness Center.
Other wish-list items the wing hopes to fund in the future include improving sports facilities, including the softball and youth fields, Rendon said.
Elsewhere, some of the prize money will be spent to renovate the chapel kitchen at Lajes Field in the Azores, which is aligned under the 86th Airlift Wing, and to upgrade the furnishings at the vehicle registration office at Kapaun Air Station in Kaiserslautern.
Ramstein was the Air Force selection for the annual Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence in May. President Ronald Reagan established the award in 1985 to recognize installations that best support their mission with limited resources.
One of the suggestions Rendon said base officials wish they could have fulfilled was to build a vehicle bridge that would allow people to drive from the housing area on Vogelweh to the other side of the installation. The two sides are already connected by a pedestrian bridge but building a bridge for cars would require military construction funds, Rendon said.