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    Guardsmen deploy mobile ATC at PATRIOT 21

    Airmen operate a mobile air traffic control unit during PATRIOT 21

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn | U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron, 173rd Fighter Wing,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn 

    121st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

    FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- During PATRIOT 21, Airmen from the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron, 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, and the 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron, 165th Airlift Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, set up and operated a mobile air traffic control (ATC) unit at Young Air Assault Strip at Fort McCoy, Wis., during their Annual Training (AT) at PATRIOT 21. The PATRIOT 21 exercise is designed for civilian emergency management and responders to work with military entities in the same manner that they would during disasters and took place from June 14-17, 2021 at Fort McCoy and Volk Field Air National Guard Bases, Wis.

    “DOMOPS (domestic operations) is a huge part of our mission,” said Master Sgt. Quinn Craig, 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron and RAPCON (radar approach control) Chief Controller for the exercise. “This whole exercise is for domestic events – earthquakes, fires, floods, whatever. We'll identify an airport in the area we can use as a forward operating base and help bring the aircraft in safely to deliver needed supplies and medical care.”

    A mobile ATC unit can be rapidly deployed in degraded environments to provide air traffic control capabilities in the absence of a permanent facility. During PATRIOT 21, the simulated disaster was an earthquake and the job of the mobile ATC was to ensure aircraft delivering supplies or casualties were able to safely operate in that scenario.

    In a standard ATC facility, it is the job of the air traffic controllers to guide the aircraft coming into the airport. At a distance, radar is used to route the aircraft in and once they get closer, they are given visual instructions and reference points by air traffic controllers to lead them the rest of the way in. However, in an environment like that of a natural disaster where the air traffic control tower may be compromised, a mobile tower may be brought in to restore those capabilities to the area.

    “For example, when Hurricane Maria took out San Juan Airport in 2017, there was no air traffic control function there and in most of Puerto Rico,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Wyman, chief of operations, 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron. “The 270th deployed its mobile air traffic control tower to provide that same visual kind of service there after the disaster. So we're here simulating that kind of an environment as in a disaster. We are showing that we can come in here and provide air traffic control services as a triage point for patients impacted by the simulated disaster.”

    In addition to participating in the exercise, the air traffic control units also achieved some significant milestones. One of those milestones was the ability for a radar air traffic controller to talk to a live aircraft during an AT.

    “As the chief of operations, the big one for me is that it's the first time during any of our annual training that a radar air traffic controller has talked to a live airplane,” said Wyman. “And after doing some investigation, I believe it's the first time in the Air National Guard.”

    According to Wyman, his team's dedication and selfless service is what makes them among the best in the Air Force at what they do.

    “I think it's their passion. They believe in what they're doing and they drive hard for what they're doing,” said Wyman. “Over the years, we have really become a close and tight knit group and I think that translates to the work. When you care about each other, you care about each others' success. When you care about each others' success, you care about the mission's success. So we are here doing the best we can to make this happen.”



    Date Taken: 06.14.2021
    Date Posted: 06.18.2021 15:48
    Story ID: 399280
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US 

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