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245th Air Traffic Control Squadron practices for an Outstanding

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
Members of the South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base are operating and training in evaluation mode. While the 169th Fighter Wing is practicing to deploy personnel and generate F-16 sorties in a deployed chemical combat environment, the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron is also preparing for its own Certified Readiness Exercise later this year.

"We'll be responding to the same attacks as the wing, but we're graded on a separate level," said 1st Lt. Christopher Spotts, chief of Air Traffic Control operations. "The wing is evaluated on aircraft generation and regeneration and ATC provides the service that allows that to happen. So our scenarios are based more on broken equipment and how we can adapt and overcome to maintain communication with the aircraft to keep them departing and landing safely."

The evaluation process begins for the 245th ATCS with their ability to deploy to a bare-base environment and set up operations timely and efficiently. From there, they are graded on maintaining their mission while proving their Ability to Survive and Operate.

Evaluated inputs for the 245th ATCS will not be directly associated with aircraft in the 169th Fighter Wing's scenarios, but rather their capabilities to operate and communicate with aircraft from the deployed location. They will be graded on their response to ATSO scenarios, such as simulated rocket and mortar attacks. Evaluation emphasis will be measured on how efficiently they maintain their air traffic control mission during each scenario, while operating in full Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear.

Just recently the 245th ATCS conducted a Readiness Exercise in preparation for their upcoming CRE. The squadron was hit with various scenarios such as missile and mortar attacks that resulted in the need to operate in a chemical environment. They also responded to suspicious persons in the area, which required personnel to deliver a proper Size-Activity-Location-Unit-Time-Equipment report.

"We expected it to be tough and for the judging to be harsh. And it was. We learned a lot and performed well. Areas that still need to be improved on were noticed. There were also several areas recognized as weaknesses in previous exercises that are now becoming strengths. I saw a lot of good things," Spotts continued.

Master Sgt. James Powell, Exercise Evaluation Team lead for ATSO said, "They're doing great and moving with a good sense of purpose and team work, you can tell they've trained hard. They correct errors on the spot and are open to constructive criticism. This should be an immensely helpful exercise to prepare them for the inspection."

Chief Master Sgt. Ed Bruce, superintendent and EET leader for the 245th ATCS, also mentioned how the players showed a good sense of urgency during the exercise, especially when donning MOPP gear.

"Comparing their response times from April's exercise, there was a great improvement," said Bruce.

Spotts stated that from this point until the inspection, they will have mock exercises every drill weekend. They are looking for outstanding grades in their formal evaluation. Having personnel that were present during their last inspection in 2009 has been a tremendous advantage. The veterans have passed down information to the younger Airmen, showing how the squadron as a whole can come together and succeed.

"Historically we've always done really well and I think we'll continue that trend. We have a lot of people that are really great at their jobs, so it will manifest itself to a good outcome," Spotts concluded.