German Ministry recognized by USAFE-AFAFRICA for COVID support, Afghan aid, Ukraine support

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jose Davis
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

The German Ministry of the Interior and for Sports of the State of Rheinland-Pfalz received the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa Medal of Distinction, March 20, 2023, for outstanding support of the U.S. Air Force in Germany.

Normally awarded to individuals, the ministry will be recognized as a whole and by exception for their close cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, on several matters, over the past couple of years.

German Minister of the Interior and for Sports, Michael Ebling, received the medal on behalf of the ministry at a ceremony in Mainz.

“Receiving the Medal of Distinction has a very special significance for us,” Ebling said. “The state of Rheinland-Palatinate is committed to good German-American relations in a variety of ways – both in everyday life as well as with regard to exceptional challenges the U.S. and Germany face together.”

Lt. Gen. John Lamontagne, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa deputy commander, presented the USAFE-AFAFRICA Medal of Distinction to the ministry at the ceremony.

“The relationship between USAFE-AFARICA and the Rheinland-Pfalz state government is strategically important,” Lamontagne said. “We appreciate the mutual trust and open lines of communication with the state government, which contributes to Americans feeling welcome here in Germany.”

The Ministry of the Interior and for Sports received this distinctive medal for several achievements, supporting the U.S. Air Force in Germany. Its “Welcome in Rheinland-Pfalz” program facilitated and supported the integration of the U.S. military, civilians and family members into their respective German communities, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Particularly important, the ministry also provided unparalleled assistance to the U.S. Air Force during the rapid deterioration of security in Afghanistan.

Called Operation ALLIES REFUGE and Operation ALLIES WELCOME, Ramstein Air Base was the focal point for aiding thousands of Afghan evacuees. The effort required a broad spectrum of expertise and support including medical, logistics, maintenance, civil engineering, security and food services.

Working closely with USAFE-AFAFRICA, the ministry played a crucial role during Operation ALLIES REFUGE and Operation ALLIES WELCOME by helping secure food sources, facilitate immunizations, and screen persons of interest.

“We are grateful to Rheinland-Pfalz and Germany as a whole for their critical support they have rendered to USAFE-AFAFRICA in the past couple of years and beyond,” Lamontagne added. “We highly value the decades-long friendship we have with the German people.”

Lastly, the ministry rendered instrumental support in guaranteeing the success of the first Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 26, 2022.

Organized quickly and on short notice, ministers of defense and chiefs of defense from nearly 50 nations from around the world converged on Germany for the meeting to discuss Russia’s unjustified and brutal war with Ukraine.

“I am very happy that our work is also appreciated by the U.S. side,” Ebling stated. “I gladly accept the award on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior, with the honor belonging to the many dedicated employees in my Ministry.”

The USAFE-AFAFRICA Medal of Distinction is regularly awarded to a non-U.S. citizen or institution in recognition for extraordinary service, achievements or support to the accomplishment of the USAFE-AFAFRICA mission.