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It's all about collaboration: Mass. Air Guard, active duty work together at Ramstein

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- When it comes to protecting and defending the United States, the Air National Guard and active-duty Air Force have different roles, primarily fulfilling state and federal missions respectively. But regardless of the chain of command each branch falls under, all Airmen wear the same uniform, train the same way, and train the way they fight.

In war-time contingencies, Airmen from both Guard and active duty are called to deploy and will have to integrate with each other while overseas. Having the opportunity to train together in a non-war environment provides great opportunities for learning and teamwork.

Approximately 50 members from the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts, recently deployed to Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases to train and work with their active-duty counterparts May 4-17.

"It's all about collaboration," said Maj. Matthew Mutti, 104th Force Support Squadron commander and project officer for the deployment.

The guardsmen who deployed all fall under the 104th Mission Support Group, working in the various units of services, personnel, security forces, logistics, emergency management, explosive ordnance disposal, and fire department.

Members of the services flight spent one week training in dining halls, gyms, and lodging facilities across Ramstein, giving them the opportunity to train on specific aspects of services that cannot be duplicated at Barnes.

"I have taken full advantage of this training opportunity," said Staff Sgt. Adrianne Johnson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of lodging at Barnes.

Members of the 104th Military Personnel Flight spent a week working with the 786th MPF at Ramstein and had the unique opportunity to help then with the Kaiserslautern Military Community Joint Passport Outreach Day on May 6.

"The visiting members from the Massachusetts Air National guard augmented our passport agents and volunteers in an outstanding manner and with such a positive attitude," said Ms. Annette Davenport, chief of customer support, 786th Force Support Squadron.

In four hours, they were able to expedite 543 passports and birth registrations, helping the Kaiserslautern Passport Offices and the U.S. Consulate to cut the wait time from six to three weeks.

"This was a great team effort," Davenport said.

Additionally, a guardsmen briefed the 786th MPF and U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters personnel (A1) staff on the vPC platform, originally a guard and reserve program which active duty will transition to by September.

The 104th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight received invaluable training that they can't get at home by working with more than 20 people in the Ramstein flight, receiving training on a C-130 aircraft and providing training to their counterparts on the F-15.

104th Security Forces members, acting as augmentees, provided law enforcement and were able to use a police car, which they don't have at Barnes. They also worked with Ramstein's unit deployment manager, preparing more than 100 duty bags for incoming troops. With the base being undermanned, the 104th SFS members were able to help the base accomplish this task in a timely manner, said Mr. Marco Frisch, Ramstein security forces civilian police officer.

"It's awesome these guys are here to help us," Frisch said.

Guardsmen from the 104th Civil Engineer Squadron were stationed at Spangdahlem. Emergency Management members received biological training and performed a CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives) exercise. 

The fire department guardsmen accomplished vehicle extraction training, local high school fire drills, and even trained the active-duty firemen on a new vehicle. 

"The Guard is well trained and just as capable of doing the same job that the active duty does," said Maj. Jeremy Dugan, 104th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

Other Airmen from Barnes worked in the following sections: Knowledge Management Office, assisting with processing FOIA requests; Travel Management Office, processing inbound and outbound packages; Contracting, assisting with site visits and creating a new file plan; Judge Advocate General, fulfilling the requirement to train with active duty every four years; and Logistics Readiness, planning aircraft assignments.

Due to the high deployment and permanent change of station rates this time of year at Ramstein and Spangdahlem, the active-duty units were grateful to have a group of guardsmen integrate and augment them while they were shorthanded.

"All commanders expressed how happy they were with our professionalism and work ethic and would love for us to return in the future," said Master Sgt. Matthew Chapman, the 104th Mission Support Group first sergeant.

While deployed, the 104th Mission Support Group guardsmen were able to integrate seamlessly with their active-duty counterparts, while having the opportunity to train on specific aspects of the career fields that cannot be duplicated at Barnes. The skills learned at Ramstein prepare the 104th members for future deployments and the ability to support a wide range of operations, Mutti concluded.