2012 Airfield Operations Flight Complex of the Year
By Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson, 169th Fighter Wing
/ Published March 08, 2013
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- McEntire's 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron recently was recognized by the National Guard as the 2012 Airfield Operations Flight Complex of the Year. The squadron was chosen over 14 other Guard units.
The 245th was supported by numerous other McEntire units in vying for the award. The submission focused on two areas: Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems and the Control Tower. The 169th Operations Support Flight's Airfield Management team also was vital to the competition.
The squadron won this award once before, but it has been four years since the last time they submitted this specific package for consideration. Initially, they had no intention to submit for 2012, but then they went through a very successful Airfield Operations Certification Inspection, achieving greater than 96 percent compliance. Squadron commander Lt Col Mike Dunkin said, "After that, we felt like we stood a good chance."
There was a lot happening on the airfield to show off how well the teams work. In addition to maintaining daily operations on the flight line during ramp construction, the squadron supported a successful Army Ranger exercise where the base went completely dark for night training while maintaining the alert mission. A lot of planning went into the exercise, ensuring procedures were in place to handle any alert situation that might have occurred.
Dunkin said, "First lieutenant Chris Spotts with the control tower handled all the coordination with the special ops guys. He was the POC for the base this year and worked on the letters of agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, because the combat control group for the exercise actually had to take over our tower.
"Civil Engineering helped, because turning off the lights is part of it, but we had to get the agreements for those aircraft flying around in our airspace."
He said, "The fact we're the only base that has total black-out capabilities ... I think the Guard Bureau had a greater appreciation for it this year, which was another reason we looked to submit."
Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wright and his airfield management team worked closely with the 245th to provide support needed for the Ranger exercise and the alert mission's needs.
ATCALS are responsible for the Tactical Air Navigation systems, navigational aids and maintenance for the radios and equipment.
The list of specific accomplishments for the award goes far beyond the success of the black-out exercise. The Swamp Foxes' highlights throughout the entire year are substantial, from developing the close air support training protocol that gave 28 pilots and more than 100 JTACS mission-critical training to being the U.S. Air Force's test unit for state-of-the-art navigation equipment.
The 245th ATCS invariably wins some type of award each year, but they are selective in submitting for the complex of the year. "For me this is the biggest award. This says everything you do, you do well ... not that you have just a few individuals doing well," Dunkin boasts.
Next, their package will compete against all the Major Command winners at the Air Force level.