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All under control: Pacific Air Force’s tallest control tower back in service

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- A B-1B Lancer roars above the MSN-7 Mobile Tower System situated in the middle of Andersen Air Force Base’s flightline. With lightning thundering in the distance, the controller radios in a warning to the pilots as they depart Andersen’s airspace. The rain comes crashing down on the mobile tower and visibility begins to diminish.

For three months, 36th Operation Support Squadron Airmen have been working out of the mobile tower, while the primary control tower underwent renovations. The MSN-7 Mobile Tower was provided by the 297th Air Traffic Control Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard.

“It’s almost like being deployed out here,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Degracia, 36th OSS air traffic controller. “We are working with the bare minimum; a crash phone, light gun and radio system. It’ll be awesome to go back to the tower once it’s all set up.”

The primary tower that reaches 13 stories in the air was originally built in the 1960s. Over the years, the roof begun to leak and the glass had lost its sealant, causing condensation between the panes of glass, making it more difficult for Airmen to work.

“My Airmen are the most professional I've seen in my career,” said Master Sgt. Albert Moody, 36th OSS tower chief controller. “They were able to transition to the MSN-7 and back into the control tower without any blueprints. They were given the orders and executed without any limitations or delays to the mission.”

“It was amazing how we were able to work during exercises,” Moody said. “Now, the Airmen have a tower that equals the amazing work that they do.”

The new tower top has new glass, desks and flooring to better help the controllers keep an eye on the sky.

“Being an air traffic controller is really stressful,” Degracia said. “For me, and I think everyone else that works up here, we love the challenge and it helps us to strive and be even better than we were yesterday.”

The $1.6 million project that involved removing the old cab and replacing it with the new one only took three months to complete.
“I’m excited to see this project to fruition from being there from the very beginning,” Moody said. “Our Airmen deserve it.”

Moody, having worked in air traffic control for his 18-year career, has witnessed crashes, parts falling off aircraft, and even insurgents shooting at aircraft. Even with that, he says that he still loves his job.

“I love that every day is different,” Moody said. “No two planes will be in the same places every day. What works today may not work tomorrow so it allows for creativity. Air traffic control is easy until the unexpected happens.”

The historic project of upgrading the air traffic control tower cab included support from multiple units, such as the 36th Communications Squadron, 36th Civil Engineering Squadron, 36th Maintenance Group, 36th Mission Readiness Squadron, 36th Contingency Response Group, and the 644th Combat Communications Squadron in addition to the hard work of the 36th OSS.

With their new and improved equipment, the controllers are able to more safely and more efficiently maintain Andersen’s airspace so that the missions can continue uninhibited.