Friday, July 17, 2009

USAFE officials stand up air ground operations wing

by Capt. Megan A. Schafer, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The stand up of U.S. Air Forces in Europe's first wing solely dedicated to supporting battlefield Airmen took place during a July 16 ceremony at Ramstein Air Base.

The 435th Air Ground Operations Wing takes over the mission previously performed by two 86th Airlift Wing units here -- the Contingency Response Group and the Air and Space Communications Group -- along with the 4th Air Support Operations Group out of Heidelberg, Germany.

"This is a historic day for Ramstein and for USAFE," said Col. Tom Gould, who took command of the 435th AGOW during the ceremony. "This wing's new capability is certainly one of a kind, from calling in airstrikes to opening bases, the capabilities this wing brings to the European and African theater is tremendous."

The wing consolidates the tactical air control party and battlefield weather specialties of the 4th ASOG, the contingency communications support of the ACOMG, and the expeditionary support to assess, prepare and operate airfields for air expeditionary forces of the CRG. Both of the groups from the 86th AW will now perform their mission under the 435th AGOW.

"The 435th AGOW provides these specialized Airmen with a single command and control structure," Colonel Gould said. "By consolidating these units under one wing, we will be able to standardize our organizational processes and streamline how we train, equip and employ our battlefield Airmen."

As part of the reorganization ceremony, the 435th Air Base Wing was redesignated as the AGOW. The 431st Air Base Group was also officially inactivated during an earlier ceremony. The remaining mission areas of the 435th ABW will merge with the 86th Airlift Wing.

"Realigning our mission under one wing meets the Air Force chief of staff's intent of structuring units by mission," said Brig. Gen. William J. Bender, the 86th Airlift Wing commander. "Our dual-wing team worked extremely well together -- even garnering a dual 'Excellent' rating during our recent Unit Compliance Inspection. We look forward to continuing that great cohesion as we combine our efforts under one wing."

Lt. Gen. Philip J. Breedlove, the 3rd Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony, and remarked on the changes as being a positive step for not only the wings and USAFE, but the Air Force.

"There is nothing wrong with change if it's in the right direction. This reorganization and stand up represents another step in streamlining our operations," the general said. He also challenged Colonel Gould to "find the balance between preserving the proud heritage of this wing and embracing the changes necessary to move forward into today's fight."

The 435th AGOW is the second of its kind in the Air Force. The 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing resides at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.