Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas --
A key piece to airpower are the pilots trained here every day, however, without the Airmen on the ground, these pilots would never reach the sky -- this is where Laughlin Air Force Base’s Air Traffic Control tower steps into the picture.
ATC Airmen are not only responsible for directing aircraft but also work to receive their own training and certifications concurrently. Through high quality operations, innovative training, and a desire to excel the Laughlin AFB ATC was recognized as Air Education and Training Command’s Air Traffic Control Tower of the year.
“Our job is to ensure the safe operation of aircraft in the air. We execute the mission one hundred and ten percent,” said Airman 1st Class Stephen Holcomb, 47th Operation Support Squadron air traffic controller. “The mission here at Laughlin is to train pilots and we do a really good job at that.”
Working with student pilots is not the only thing ATC Airmen focus on, they also have their own upgrade training. Airmen from the tower completed their training in 75 percent of the time required of most airmen, the fastest of any AETC towers.
“It’s an extremely challenging job, training alone for people when they show up can take from 6 months to a year, if not a tad longer. It takes a lot of hard work from a lot of different people,” said Master Sgt. Eric Hagan, 47th OSS tower chief controller. “Entire crews go into training these young Airmen and once they get their certifications they also get thrust into the role of training others. We’re always training and we don’t stop operations to accomplish training, we’re always actively accomplishing the mission and we’re getting more people certifications.”
While under manned, the ATC Tower was able to achieve more than 87,000 operations, the most in 17 years. This keeps air traffic controllers on their toes and continually learning.
“You learn something new every day,” said Staff Sgt. Corina Williams, 47th OSS senior watch supervisor. “You have to have quick action and quick instincts to be prepared with the skillset you’ve learned. We all work together cohesively and get through each of these new situations.”
Instructor pilots working with the Airmen in the tower also play a critical role in operations and getting student pilots off the ground.
“This is a very smart and enthusiastic group of folks that you can tell have been trained very well,” said Maj. Jason Hyrnyk, 87th Flying Training Squadron chief instructor pilot. “They take their job very seriously and it’s pretty awesome to be able to work with a team like that.”
The hard working Airmen of the ATC may be small in number but they play a critical part of the 47 Flying Training Wing’s mission in building combat ready Airmen, leaders, and pilots.