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Air Traffic Control plays major role in Vigilant Guard

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Stephen Hudson
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
A Category 4 hurricane named Zephyr slammed into the South Carolina coast, knocking out power and communications. That is the scenario of Vigilant Guard, a training exercise going on in South Carolina, March 3-12.

With any large-scale natural disaster, the ability to bring in relief supplies or responders is based on the ability to get the airlift into the impacted area. That is where the South Carolina Air National Guard's 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron steps in. During Vigilant Guard, the 245th is providing air traffic control and airfield management at the Georgetown Airport. This training scenario is just what the unit would do in an actual natural disaster.

The 245th, with its mobile tower, can deploy Airmen worldwide in 72 hours, providing air traffic management within 30 minutes and be fully operational in an hour-and-a-half of arriving at a bare base location, Capt. Christopher Spotts, deputy commander, said.

"This has been great training for our Airmen," Spotts said of the exercise.

During Vigilant Guard, the 245th sent 25 Airmen to support the exercise, and included 11 air traffic controllers that managed air traffic over the airport, two air field managers and maintenance personnel.

Their role during the exercise was the same as it would be after a natural disaster or during a deployment; controlling the airspace and arranging parking for the aircraft at the airport. Because Air Force Air Traffic Controllers get FAA certifications, they can deploy anywhere.

"It's good to do something that would be our mission," Senior Airman Quinton Garvin, an air traffic controller, said. "We've had to learn a new airfield and new procedures quickly. We had about 150 operations each day."

During the week, the National Guard is training in numerous scenarios including water purification, ferrying vehicles across the Sampit River, wellness checks and mass casualty recovery drills. More than 2,000 National Guardsmen from multiple states are participating in Vigilant Guard which runs March 3-12. South Carolina also hosted Vigilant Guard in 2008.