CAMP TAJI, IRAQ
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — The job of an air traffic controller requires great diligence, especially when dealing with elements such as weather and the constant flow of aircraft on the flight line.
For Sgt. Joseph Mann, of 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, performing these duties is an everyday task and one he has successfully risen above his peers in.
Mann, from Philadelphia, an air traffic controller for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division—Center, was recently selected as the Army Aviation Association of America ATC of the year, beating out controllers Army-wide in the contest.
Being selected for the contest came as a surprise for Mann, who said he was chosen from his company for his high ratings throughout the last year.
"It was for all the ratings that I've mastered at all the airfields I've worked at," Mann said.
When being rated, Mann said it was crucial to know all the regulations and flight sequencing on the airfields.
"I had to know all the ins and outs of my airspace and how to organize the flights effectively without any conflicts," Mann said. "I had to watch for unsafe acts and keep everything in working order."
Mann was rated by Sgt. 1st Class Ruben Gutierrez, a senior ATC in Co. F, who was impressed by Mann's efforts and entered him in the competition in October last year.
Winning was not something Mann expected, making his victory a pleasant surprise.
"Usually they give the award to people who handle emergencies, but the ratings I acquired over a one-year period was the reason I won," Mann said. "I didn't think I had a chance, but I really love doing this job and it felt great to win."
Mann's win came as no surprise to Staff Sgt. Wilfredo Rivera, from Fort Knox, Ky., the facility chief for Co. F, 2-227th, 1st ACB, who said Mann is a highly competent controller.
"He's a very smart controller ... he knows techniques and he knows how to apply the rules," Rivera said about Mann's abilities. "He sequences and separates aircraft the way they're supposed to be. He's very passionate about his job and loves doing what he does."
Rivera said Mann has been given the opportunity to succeed, something he has embraced with tremendous motivation.
"Every time we give him a challenge as an ATC he has succeeded and that's why he won," Rivera said. "He was successfully rated at five facilities in a 12-month period, which isn't easy to do."
Mann's willingness to teach the job to younger Soldiers is another trait which added to his success, River continued.
"He makes us all better as a team and the best thing about him is he's teaching the newer controllers to be where he was. He's a good trainer."
Mann said any of the controllers in his tower could have won the award and was pleased they all were recognized in the competition.
"We also won the facility of the year here at the Taji tower for all the [air traffic controlling] this unit has done," Mann said. "It's been great during the deployment ... sometimes it's been challenging training everyone here and at Kalsu, but it's been very productive."
"There've been no major incidents and we've done everything we had to do," he said.
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