Ramstein squadron celebrates 60 years of Air Force service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amanda Dick
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 7329th Labor Service Unit was established on Sept. 8, 1950, at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, and consisted entirely of civilians.

Sixty years and several name changes later, the 435th Construction and Training Squadron (CTS) now includes both civilian and military, and serves three primary missions for U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

"Just as our name implies, the squadron's main missions are construction and training," said Lt. Col. Michael Miller, 435th CTS commander. "We have a team of 189 local nation civilians and 86 military experts who execute USAFE-wide support in three main areas: construction and repair of facilities and infrastructure, depot rebuild and installation of aircraft arresting systems and civil engineer and force support squadron wartime task training."

The squadron completes about 20 projects per year, ranging from new construction to maintenance and repair.

According to Reinhold Brückner, 435th CTS deputy commander, the squadron is currently working on several projects at Aviano Air Base, Italy; Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom; and Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, to name a few.

Pivotal in the build-up of U.S. military bases in Europe, the 435th CTS helped build Spangdahlem, Sembach, Ramstein and many other bases in Germany, as well as several throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"In the 1950s, there were 41 units like us to help rebuild Europe," said Herr Brückner, who has been with the squadron for 26 years. "The 435th CTS is the only existing unit that is still in action today."

To help meet the training mission requirements, the squadron presently has a staff of 41 skilled instructors. The 435th CTS conducts three types of training: Silver Flag, mission essential equipment training and specialized training.

"Silver Flag is about preparing engineers for contingencies, whether peacetime or wartime," said Capt. Patrick McVay, USAFE AAS depot and civil engineer contingency training flight commander. "It's also an opportunity for the trades to get together to see what the other guy does."

Ramstein is one of three Silver Flag training sites in the Air Force -- the other two at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Along with Silver Flag, the squadron conducts specialized fire rescue training. According to Captain McVay, all of the training given by the 435th CTS helps to prepare the force support and civil engineer, except explosive ordnance disposal, careerfields for what they may face during overseas contingency operations.

"Quite often it's the only chance students have to operate with their equipment and each other before they deploy," he said. "We try to make the training as immersive as possible, so that one, what we teach them sticks, and two, because it gets their head in the game and allows them to fully absorb it."

Another central element in the 435th CTS mission is the Aircraft Arresting System Depot, which was adopted by the squadron in 1971 as the Air Force's only all-military depot.

"The AAS catches, or safely stops, fighter aircraft during an in-flight emergency," said Master Sgt. Fransisco Hernandez, 435th CTS AAS Depot superintendent. "The system comes in a set of two, one for each side of the runway, with a cable in between. As soon as the aircraft hits the cable, or tape as we call it, it pulls on the tape and creates higher pressure on the hydraulics system which puts more pressure on the breaks and safely slows [the aircraft] down at a steady pace."

The squadron owns more than 35 permanent systems and about six mobile systems. The mobile systems are used to support joint, NATO and U.S. European Command exercises.

The Ramstein depot is just one of three in the Air Force -- Tyndall AFB serves the continental U.S. and Elmendorf Air Force Base, Ala., serves Pacific Air Forces.

As the 435th CTS hits its 60th anniversary, the squadron will celebrate by holding several events to commemorate their legacy of service.

The main event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 10 at the CTS compound about five kilometers outside the west gate. The event will include live music entertainment, refreshments and feature guest speakers from USAFE and the 435 Air Ground Operations Wing, along with representatives from the local German governments.

"It's amazing to still be here," Herr Brückner said. "We are very glad to be the only unit that's still alive after the Second World War from the original 41 units."

A sentiment that's felt throughout the squadron as they press on with future challenges.

"They should be proud," Colonel Miller said. "Since 1950, the men and women of the CTS have been everywhere for USAFE, and always living up to our squadron motto ... others promise, we produce. We remain ready for the next 60 years; because we know the USAFE leadership counts on us."