RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Less than 48 hours into Operation Varsity 19-04, two 786th Airlift Wing civil engineer teams deployed to geographically separated units in Spain and Portugal.
Using airlift from the 37th Airlift Squadron, a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft departed Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and transported diverse teams and capabilities to each GSU in a matter of hours. The teams included 16 Airmen expertly trained in their own individual specialties: electrical, water and fuels systems, heating ventilation and air conditioning, and structural support.
The first eight-man team offloaded at Morón Air Base, Spain. Morón, home to the 496th Air Base Squadron, provides expeditionary combat support, transient support and staging of aircraft for U.S. and NATO missions. The deployed team worked a variety of real world quality-of-life projects. They tested and installed electrical and plumbing lines, troubleshot equipment, and refurbished damaged wooden table tops.
“In just two days, the 786 CES installed over 150 thousand dollars of equipment,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Ricardo Basora, 496th Air Base Squadron, Civil Engineering flight commander. “The work performed will go a long way for our permanent and deployed personnel.”
While the team at Morón focused on improving quality-of-life, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt Joshua Bartness, team officer-in-charge, and the second team continued on to Lajes Field, Portugal. There, they increased mission capabilities by improving an assault landing zone. By restoring markings on the asphalt, the team enhanced training opportunities for tactical airlift.
Bartness said one exercise objective was the ability to command and control multiple, dispersed teams of engineers within the theater.
“It felt great being empowered to lead and make decisions for my team. I also felt the weight of that responsibility,” Bartness said.
Both teams successfully accomplished vital missions while operating under the additional stress of time constraints and maintaining exercise standards at Ramstein.
“Being CE, we lead the way, we will always come together and get the job done under any circumstance,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Baldon, 786th CES water and fuels systems craftsman.
U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Parker, 86th Civil Engineer Group commander, expressed his satisfaction with the exercise, “Engineer support to agile combat employment operations in a fight would likely require operating and recovering multiple air bases across the theater. This was an invaluable experience for our Airmen—even if on a small scale—to get an idea of what that might be like.”