An Amazing Look Inside The US Air Force's Headquarters In Europe

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Ramstein Civilian Plane

Jeremy Bender/Business Insider

With its staggering scope and scale, Ramstein Air Base in Germany is one America's most important - and most fascinating - military facilities.

Located in southwestern Germany, not far from the Rhine River and the French border, Ramstein not only serves as the headquarters of the US Air Force in Europe and as a NATO installation but also as a gateway to American military operations around the globe.

The base is part of a conglomeration of 12 Army and Air Force installations that make up the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), also known as K-Town. It hosts almost 54,000 Americans across 300 neighboring German towns and cities - turning the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany into a tiny slice of America. In fact, it's the largest concentration of Americans outside of the US. But it's also notably multicultural, including personnel from many countries.
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Ramstein started out as an impromptu Nazi airstrip based on a stretch of autobahn in the final days of World War II. In the decades since, Ramstein has become a central hub for American personnel, cargo and intelligence operations from Europe to Afghanistan and Africa, as well as a medical center for soldiers wounded in battle.

Over 2 days in September, Business Insider was given an extensive - and breathtaking - tour of the base and its operations.