GEORGETOWN, S.C. --
South Carolina is no stranger to natural disasters since the 1,000-year flood in 2015 and the threats brought on by hurricane season each year. The South Carolina Air National Guard’s 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron recently held annual training in Georgetown, South Carolina, to maintain their readiness in the event another natural disaster impacts the state.
A team of 24 Airmen packed the mobile air traffic control tower, tents, generators, and support equipment and left McEntire Joint National Guard Base for the Georgetown County Airport. The Swamp Foxes convoyed with three 5-ton tactical trucks and government vehicles for over 100 miles.
“It was exactly what we wanted,” said Senior Master Sgt. Toby Kyzer, a superintendent with the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron. “We have a load plan for deployment mobility, we really didn’t have one tailored for domestic operations stateside. We validated the load plan and created a good one for road haul.”
Once the Swamp Foxes arrived at the Georgetown County Airport, the priority was to get the AN/MSN-7 Mobile Air Traffic Control Tower up and running as quickly as possible while focusing on attention to detail and training.
“Essentially if a hurricane hit, the towers go down, there’s no radio, no frequencies, we jump in and start handling air traffic. We could handle military operations if warranted, but we were there to turn the uncontrolled airfield into a controlled airfield and talk to civilian aircraft,” said Kyzer.
The regular full-time force stepped back and let the traditional drill-status Guardsmen take ownership in the training and air traffic control operations. Supervisors also allowed their junior noncommissioned officers and Airmen take on more of the leadership role.
“The big takeaway was our DSG [Airmen] getting training and building confidence. They did an outstanding job,” said Kyzer. “If they had to go out the door by themselves, they know they can do it. We could go wherever we’re needed for ATC.”
During the four-day training, the 245th ATCS communicated with 49 civilian aircraft at the Georgetown County Airport and airspace.
The Swamp Foxes reached every goal, maintained high morale, and worked outside of their comfort zones to successfully and safely complete the necessary training.
“It was more than just controlling air traffic, it was ensuring our people could do their job,” said Kyzer.
The Swamp Foxes stepped up and took ownership of their jobs, new roles, and responsibilities to provide potentially life-saving services to the communities the next time South Carolina faces the threat of a natural disaster.