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Air traffic controllers clear air for arrivals and departures

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
For pilots of military aircraft to successfully complete missions, they must rely on several units on base, including Airmen from maintenance, munitions and weather career fields.

But for the pilots to receive the final green light, the airspace must be controlled and ready for aircraft entry. That's where the 36th Operations Support Squadron's air traffic controllers come into play.

Air traffic controllers conduct their mission alongside their 36th OSS counterparts, including weather, airfield operations and aircrew flight equipment in order to accomplish all 36th Wing mission objectives.

"We enable the warfighter to fly, fight and win by guiding air traffic control to and from Andersen AFB," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Trickey, NCO-in-charge of air traffic control training and standardization. "The airspace we're responsible for maintaining encompasses a 4.3 nautical mile radius from the center of the airport. In that airspace, we monitor all aircraft from surface level to 2,000 feet above ground level, or 2,600 feet above sea level."

Working with the Continuous Bomber Presence and Theater Security Package provides a unique opportunity for air traffic controllers here.

"Since we do not have permanently assigned aircraft here, it poses a challenge for us," Sergeant Trickey said. "We can go from an average of 10 operations a day to around 200 operations during exercises. It differs from installations with permanently assigned aircraft because air traffic is a bit more consistent and pilots' familiarity with local operations is greater."

Air traffic controllers attend 16 weeks of technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to hone their craft and build a disciplined foundation to prepare themselves for the daily stressors that come with the career field.

"We have to have good operational risk management and look out for each other," Sergeant Trickey said. "One mistake could lead to a tragedy. Having sound ORM is a vital part of being an air traffic controller."

Air traffic controllers here embrace all challenges a fluctuating ops tempo brings to the table, and they use each opportunity as a stepping stone toward excellence.

"When our air traffic increases, it enables us to stay sharp and gives our new Airmen who haven't experienced consistent air traffic the experience needed to progress in our career field," said Staff Sgt. Samuel Parker, 36th OSS air traffic controller.