Being Thankful for Complex Systems that Work
I spent Thanksgiving at Ramstein Air Base (Germany) visiting a friend serving on the medical staff.
The 86th Airlift Wing is composed of six groups, 29 squadrons and three bases in Germany, Spain and Belgium. The wing's mission is to conduct USAFE's [US Air Forces in Europe] only airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation operations flying the C-20H, C-21, C-37, C-40B and C-130E and J aircraft, as well as provide rapid mobility and expeditionary combat support for military operations throughout the KMC. (link)My first impression was -- Big. My last impression was -- Big. I could see the lights of the massive air field from miles away. Once I understood the mission of the base I began to appreciate the complexity involved across the technology, the organization, and the people. The 86th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility is just one part of Ramstein Air Base's mission, yet its activities are an indication of the work going on across the base: By the end of Oct 2009 they had transported over 100,000 wounded (over the six years since opening), currently around 300 per week -- 24/7, in all types of weather. I couldn't help but be amazed at their work and used the TOP Management framework to try and understand how it comes together: Technology: Aircraft can be quickly configured into flying intensive care units Organization: This unit meets the planes carrying wounded from the field and provides them care until they move on to local or U.S. hospitals. They are a joint-force of active duty, guard, and reservists. While the active duty can be stationed for years, the guard and reservists rotate through six month tours. Again, think of the complexity across years of training, logistics of deployment, and the creation of flexible teams. People: Yes, the technology is sophisticated and the organization is experienced -- but the binding force is the commitment of the men and women at all stages of the medical transport. This post is more of a thank you than it is an organizational analysis. I am thankful and amazed at how this complex system works and can support wounded servicemen and women as they head home. Thank you to those serving and to those who have served. Please consider giving to the USO this holiday season.