173rd Fighter Wing welcomes deployed Airmen home

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron welcomed home a team of 15 Airmen from a six-month deployment to Iraq, Jan. 4, 2018 at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

A demobilization ceremony served to officially welcome back the Kingsley Field Airmen, after they provided radar approach and finals control at the busiest airfield in Iraq—Al Asad Air Base.

The 15-member team joined efforts with the Wyoming Air National Guard out of Cheyenne to form a 30-member team, which Capt. Alex Fugate, the air field operations flight commander, oversaw.

“We had these guys do so many things outside their AFSC; these guys were out there on their off-time helping put up tents or digging trench lines to run cables and other things to help make the base more robust,” said Fugate. “Every one of these guys was a volunteer so when you go back to our roots as the guard and the militia it’s that same spirit of volunteerism that you see, all of these people wanted to be there.”

He went on to say that he took pride in their “attitudes, their optimism and their motivation”.

Fugate gave an example of the more than 60 year-old radar system requiring a repair that only depot maintenance out of Pennsylvania could provide. The radar would have to be shipped back to the East Coast incurring costs and down time. Instead, Tech. Sgt. Mark Chinander, a radar maintenance technician from the 173rd Fighter Wing, submitted a proposal to have him and his team do the work.

They were granted approval, but the job was slated to take two days, far too long to be without a radar in a war zone. Instead, Chinander and his team practiced on a non-working set and whittled the downtime to nearly four hours, which was beneficial because they had to do it twice. The first time they did the repair it took three-and-a-half hours; the second time was significantly faster.

“We did it in the middle of the night and we got it done in 45 minutes,” said Chinander.

This was in addition to a robust primary mission.

“In contrast to managing flying in Oregon, they were managing much more complex airspace in a far less friendly environment,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Stencel, the Oregon Adjutant General. “They provided 24-7 radar approach control, precision approach radar services and tactical air navigation support for a wide variety of military aircraft.”

Those aircraft included unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, as well as cargo aircraft and fighter jets.

Today these Citizen-Airmen have returned to their respective professions and their families having supported the call to service overseas. They have also returned to their home stations, the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron where they manage air traffic for the 173rd Fighter Wing and Klamath Falls International Airport.