Provide Promise

Captain Chris Miller's experiences in the former Republic of Yugoslavia

The Mission : In and Out of Sarajevo : Back in Germany : Write Me

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Main Gate
Rhein-Main Primary Gate
Rhein-Main Air Base sits on the south side of the Frankfurt International Airport, near the confluence of the Rhein River and The Main River. The airport is just outside the small village of Zeppelinheim, and at one time was the launching point for the large airships that were so popular during the period between world wars. During World War II, the German Luftwaffe staged bombers out of the airfield, making it a prime target for Allied air raids. As late as the 1990's WWII ordnance was still being dug out of the ramp area. The land under the base is riddled with tunnels going down 12 to 20 stories underground. In the immediate post-war era, troops investigating these tunnels trip a number of booby-traps, causing the Allied commanders to order to tunnels sealed and flooded. Up until 1994, the old railroad roundhouse was still a prominent landmark on the base, eventually being refurbished as a bus barn.
Berlin Airlift Memorial
Berlin Airlift Memorial
Post-war, the base was used as a staging area for C-47s and C-54s that played a major role in Operation Vittles - the Berlin Airlift. Col Gail Halvorsen, the famous "Candy Bomber", flew out of Rhein-Main. As you pull up to the main gate, you can see the Air Bridge Memorial with its static display aircraft just to the north of the main road. The aircraft on display there actually particiapted in the Berlin Airlift. The three prongs at the top of the memorial represent the three air corridors starting in Berlin and stretching across the Soviet sector to Rhein-Main in the south, Fassberg in the central region, and Gatow in the north. Just a little farther north, a walking bridge spans A5, the north-south autobahn that runs past the approach end of runways 25 left and right. The walking bridge runs from a path just outside the perimeter fence to a recreation and picnic area on the edge of Zeppelinheim. On any given day, literally dozens of local residents can be seen up on the bridge with cameras and binoculars watching airplanes takeoff and land.
During the 70s and 80s, Rhein-Main was the home of the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing, which owned the 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron, the 55th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron, a Combat Control Squadron and an Airlift Control Element. The base also hosted the 7405th and 7580th "Berlin for lunch bunch" and the 7th Special Operations Squadron. Normally an active and somewhat congested base, Rhein-Main served as a focal point for tons of supplies, equipment, and thousands of troops headed for the Middle East in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Provide Promise, Provide Hope, Provide Relief, and the repatriation of remains from the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. The Ramp
A Typical Day on the Military Ramp
Total number of aircraft assigned to the base included 16 x C-130E AWADS Hercules, 6 x C-9A Nightingales, 4 x C-130E Hercules (for the Berlin for lunch bunch), 5 x MC-130E Combat Talons, and more than 2 dozen transient aircraft daily. In addition to the military traffic, the civilian side of the airport was at one time rated the busiest airport in Europe (a title held at one time or another by Nuernburg, Koeln-Bonn, and Heathrow). Two side-by-side runways 25/07 did double duty for both departures and arrivals. In 1985, construction was completed on runway 18 on the far western edge of the field. Runway 18 would be used for departures only, freeing up the parallel runways to receive a third more landing traffic. Even so, aircraft were sometimes sequenced all the way back to the East German/Czech buffer zone waiting for their chance to land. Ground traffic was equally busy, with Sierra taxiway being used almost exclusively by military traffic to try to keep us clear of the civilian side. Control Tower
Military Control Tower

I had been involved indirectly in the Provide Promise operations early on. I had gotten home from Desert Storm in March 1991, witnessed the birth of my daughter, outprocessed the base, and PCS'd to Headquarters Military Airlift Command at Scott AFB, IL. In my new job as the Chief of Theater Airlift Combat Employment, I was not only responsible for drafting the regulations governing C-130, C-23, and C-27 operations, I was also part of the team that stood up the Tanker/Airlift Control Center (TACC). Col Ed Wiesner was one of the brand new Senior Directors in the TACC, and he had been my squadron commander in the 41st three years earlier. When Sarajevo started to heat up enough to prevent aircraft landing there, Col Wiesner called on me to work out the details for high-altitude airdrop operations.

Some of the Hangars
Now here it was, spring of 1994. I was deployed to Rhein-Main with the 96th Airlift Squadron (AFRES) out of Minneapolis. We had arrived on base just in time to join in the celebration of the one-year anniversary of the start of airdrop operations - what a party! The maintenance facility across the street from the old 37th building had been completely cleared out and a band stand installed. There was free beer everywhere. Units had come in from all over Germany - flyers, aerial porters, maintenance folks, support personnel... we must have tripled the base population for an entire week. During my three-week stay there, I never did get to fly an airdrop mission. But I did fly seven combat support missions through Aviano AB, Italy, to Split, Croatia, to Sarajevo. While I was there, I also received word that I had been selected for the full-time Reserve position at the AFRES Command Center that I had applied for back in February.
Irish Pub and Surrounding Buildings
A mildly humorous story from that TDY involved a young female Army lieutenant who was heading up a rigging detachment on the base. She had about half-a-dozen soldiers working for her, and we had gotten along well at the hangar party. A couple of her guys invited me out with them to Sachsenhausen, an older section of Frankfurt with some very nice clubs and bars. The lieutenant was a fanatic with a camera, and took pictures of everything. Well, more than a year later, I was in my new full-time job at Robins AFB in Georgia. A friend of mine there was a med tech in the Army Guard, and was deploying to Ramstein for a tour of duty supporting Joint Forge. When he came back, he had pictures of some of the folks he hung out with, and one of them was the same lieutenant. In fact, he had been looking through one of her photo albums and recognized me in a group shot from one of the pubs in Sachsenhausen. Fortunately, I'd already told my wife all about it, so he couldn't hold it over my head :-)

E-Mail Last updated on 24 May 2006 by Chris Miller Go Top

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