News: Air Traffic Control protects its pilots
Story by Pfc. Courtney White
Fightertown Marines and civilian employees with the Air Traffic Control facility protect the pilots and aircraft that fly, land and navigate throughout the Lowcountry area by being their always present eyes in the sky.
The ATC facility is manned by 67 Marines and civilians, who each have different types of training to accomplish their goal of keeping the flightline operating safely.
"Safety is very important to keep in mind while working here," said Master Sgt. Joseph Dobbins, the ATC staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.
Air Traffic Control contains a wide variety of jobs such as final controller, arrival approach, tower data, local control, tower supervisor and radar supervisor.
The main focus for ATC is to make sure all aircraft land properly. While pilots are preparing to take off, land, or are flying over the Beaufort skies, ATC communicates with the pilots to keep them safe.
Every Marine has three months of training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., before arriving to their duty station to learn the basics of ATC, according to Dobbins. Some Marines don't make it through training because the classes are very strenuous and require a great deal of studying, including after hours.
"It's easy to get into this occupational field. The challenging part is succeeding," said Staff Sgt. Corey Wood, the ATC tower chief with H&HS.
"Because this Military Occupational Specialty is academically challenging, many Marines 'wash-out' before reaching the fleet," Dobbins said. "Marines are required to do a great deal of studying in their off time."
There is still plenty of training to pass once arriving to the fleet, according to Dobbins. After arriving to the fleet there is an estimated nine months of training before being considered a fully ATC qualified Marine. There is a lot of on-the-job training: up to 25 written tests and about 20 simulations.
Even with adequate training, there are still hazards on our flightline, such as birds, weather related issues and other aircraft in the way, according to Dobbins.
"There are at least four Marines in the tower at all times and a minimum of 12 Marines in the facility while it's open," Dobbins said.
The Air Station's pilots are able to feel a sense of safety because they know there are always Marines and Department of Defense employees to guide them safely through the sky.
"I feel very safe when flying near the Air Station because the people who work for ATC are very professional and qualified personnel," said Maj. Charles Sprietsma, the executive officer for H&HS.