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RAMSTEIN, Germany — Men and women in the U.S. Air Force tend to be people who want to see the world, and like Utahns stationed in German, they enjoy their service there.
When it comes to where Air Force personnel are based, often airmen have to take a 12-month remote, less-desirable assignment before they get their choice. The number-one pick? Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
The base is a strategic hub for all the military planes, passengers and cargo coming from the United States to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. About 17 thousand military and civilians serve there.
U.S. Air Force Captain Paul Merrill, who came from Orem, is checking gear for his next flight. Merrill is a flight nurse.
"It's a great opportunity for me to be involved in treating these patients that are being injured supporting our country and supporting our freedoms," Merrill said.
Merrill transports sick or injured military personnel from places like Afghanistan back to Germany where they receive treatment.
Another Utahn, Airman First Class Jarrett Bradshaw from Roosevelt, works base security. He checks identification Captain David Weller from Sandy is a social worker who treats PTSD. He uses virtual reality therapy to re-create the sights and sounds of war.
It's a great opportunity for me to be involved in treating these patients that are being injured supporting our country and supporting our freedoms.
–- Captain Paul Merrill
"People avoid the stressors and avoid the nightmares and it continues to haunt them and give them problems," Weller said. "We have them face it, we have them confront it and we have them overcome it."
He also treats military family members with phobias using the same therapy methods.
"We start to see progress pretty quickly once they are able to face that fear," he said.
These Utahns may be far from home, but they've all chosen to be at Ramstein.
"Opportunity to be here, to be immersed in the culture, is something that really is a unique experience," Merrill said.
One thing that makes this Air Force base unique from what you'd find in the states: it's also the NATO air headquarters. So in addition to U.S. airmen, Canadian, German, Belgian, Dutch and British forces are based there.
And the Americans have a special relationship with their German hosts.
"They work with us. It's nice to have them with us in case a situation comes up; They speak German," Bradshaw said.
At a base like this, each airman's role is integral to the overall mission.
"It's great to be involved in something so fulfilling," Merrill said.
U.S. airmen love the Ramstein experience so much, many end up extending their tours there. Many also take advantage of the surrounding culture, with 80 to 90 percent of those who work there living with German neighbors.