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U.S., host nation air traffic controllers vital to airpower
Tech. Sgt. Thomas Miller and Ahmed-Abdullah Al-Janahi maintain surveillance in the air traffic control tower at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, Dec. 18, 2013. Miller and Al-Janahi are air traffic controllers who help provide 24-hour support to aircraft in flight and on the flightline. Al-Janahi is a host nation air traffic controller and Miller is a 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and an Olathe, Kan., native. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Miller)
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U.S., host nation air traffic controllers vital to airpower

Posted 12/27/2013   Updated 12/29/2013 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. David Miller
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/27/2013 - Southwest Asia  -- U.S. and host nation air traffic controllers provide 24-hour operations directing aircraft in flight and on the flightline at the busiest airfield in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command's area of responsibility.

Airmen assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron and host nation counterparts work together in the control tower to ensure decisive airpower is generated from the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia.

"You see the mission develop," said Senior Airman Kevin Krippner, a 379th EOSS air traffic controller deployed from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and a Winchester, Va., native. "When an alert aircraft has to get off the ground you feel that sense of urgency."

Urgency is something an ATC deals with often, he said.

"We have the busiest tower in the AOR," said Senior Master Sgt. Bill Lince, 379th EOSS air traffic control tower chief deployed from Cannon AFB, N.M., and a Rome, N.Y., native. "Our annual operations this year figure to be about 42,000 operations."

While the bulk of operations are active missions, the host nation's air force, particularly their helicopters, do a lot of training missions which consists of repeated take offs and landing practice.

"The language barrier is hard at first but you always come back to the basics of air traffic controlling," said Krippner.

Host nation controllers work five days a week in the position and are supervised by U.S. watch supervisors whose job it is to ensure the safety and smooth flow of ATC operations, said Lince.

This working partnership is critical when dealing with the amount of sorties executed here.

"It's great working with the host nation controllers and building bonds, said Krippner. "Even though we may have grown up differently we connect over family, sports and other common interests."

"Unlike most career fields which are basically the same wherever you go, ATC changes from base to base depending on many factors," said Lince. "One of the unique aspects of ATC is that controllers must be certified in each facility before they can control traffic unmonitored. In the deployed environment a common overlap is three to six days and our manning is limited enough so that we can't afford to take any longer than that to be ready to handle operations or we would sacrifice combat capability."

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