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386th EOSS Air Traffic Control ensure readiness, safety

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Arielle Vasquez
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Airmen assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Control Tower have the unique responsibility of coordinating the safe and expeditious control of Air Force Central Command’s busiest airfield 24/7.

As the gateway for the Area of Responsibility, the Air Traffic Control team works from the highest vantage point on base to ensure safety of aircraft and pilots while minimizing air traffic congestion.

“Our mission here is to separate and sequence aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Blakley, 386th EOSS superintendent and chief tower controller. “Our guys are always ready for whatever is presented to them. There’s no way of projecting how busy it can get up here, so they have to be alert at all times. Our air traffic controllers all bring an abundance of experience to the fight.”

According to Staff Sgt. Charles Scott, 386th EOSS air traffic controller, the operations tempo remains high around the clock.

“We control an average of 35,000 operations on an annual basis,” he said. “Being the focal point for two AOR’s keeps us busy and, because we conduct operations here differently compared to back home, there is always something new we are learning. So far, it has been a rewarding experience.”

Communication plays a critical role in ensuring aircraft are flying safely. To help facilitate this, the tower has three positions comprised of flight data, ground control and local control. Flight data is responsible for ensuring coordination with other units based on flight schedules, ground control communicates with aircraft on the ground and local control consists of everything on the runway and in the air.

Controlling aircraft at deployed locations can present both challenges and a learning experiences for the air traffic controllers accustomed to different operating conditions.

“Being in this environment definitely brings a lot of mission changes and longer hours, which requires us to be more flexible,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Asbury 386th EOSS air traffic controller. “However, since I’ve been here, working side-by-side with coalition partners has been an eye-opening experience. They have been very welcoming and we have enjoyed the working relationship and are constantly learning new processes from one another.”

By fostering decisive airpower, contingency readiness and building relationships with nation and coalition partners, Air Traffic Control Airmen are able to ensure the safety of every aircraft coming in and out of the AOR.

“Without air traffic controllers, landing, taking off, or moving aircraft is possible, but highly dangerous, “Blakley said. “Without us, there’s no delivery of assets in theater in a safe manner.”