270th ATCS enhances annual training

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

The 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron took their annual training up a notch this year choosing to make it more realistic.

Typically, this training falls in conjunction with a major inspection and that requires all of the exercises and simulations be constrained to Kingsley Field proper. However, the 270th ATCS mission is expeditionary in nature and this year they will train to pack up and control aircraft on any field anywhere in the world.

They exercised that capability in specific ways; first in securing an area using base defense tactics, and secondly by setting up an actual airfield with all the required parts--far away from the base.

July 24 found the 270th caravanning toward Bonanza, Oregon, "deuce-and-a-half's" brimming with helmeted troops ready to secure several acres of public land. After arriving, troops formed a perimeter prepared to take on any threats to securing a simulated airfield.

Tech. Sgt. William Briones of the 173rd Security Forces Squadron lent his expertise and experience from Afghanistan and other deployments, as well as Marine Corps training, to throw a number of scenarios at them. Among them, insurgents stormed down a hill assaulting the perimeter with weapons loaded with blanks.

A quick reaction force rapidly quelled the attack and Briones evaluated the effort.

"The quick reaction force was bar-none, good," he said later.

The next logical step was to set up an air traffic control center complete with all necessary gear. The Chiloquin Sate Airport made a perfect setting for the training--unmanned and ringed with sagebrush, it was just austere enough to test every aspect of mobilizing air traffic control capability.

"It's actually getting our equipment off of Kingsley Field exercise area which was condensed," said 1st Lt. Alex Fugate, 270th Chief of Air Traffic Control.

Troops wielded hand axes, clearing brush for the TRN-48 Tactical Air Navigation Aid TACAN, a large trailer housing a system that allows aircraft to orient themselves to the airstrip. Once the TACAN was properly placed, troops dug holes near it and drove copper rods into the ground with sledge hammers. Then, with fire extinguishers at the ready, a contained pyrotechnic device fused ground wires and rods together. This insured that if lightning did strike the TACAN antennae, it would travel around vital components and dissipate into the soil.

Elsewhere, crews worked to properly place the radar unit, although in this case a trailer with a generator substituted for the actual piece of equipment.  The other pieces of equipment are the real thing, but the radar's challenges are easy to simulate and hard to overcome.  That equipment, towed by a vehicle must be perpendicular to the airstrip, and that means it may not be even one degree off.

"What is critical is the angle that it's lined up to," said Master Sgt. Xavier Tecson, 270th Radar Maintenance Technician. "If you are a half and inch off here and this thing goes out 15 nautical miles, you'll be way off out there for a precision approach."

That would be unacceptable; therefore, Tecson's Airmen practice something he's done on deployments to Iraq and elsewhere--trial and error until finally pulling the trailer around one last time results in perfect alignment.

On the other side of the airfield, members set up reflectors resembling satellite dishes.  This provides another dose of reality--they have to be connected by wire to the mobile air traffic control tower, more than 1,500 feet laid around the air strip.

"This really exposes folks to the real world, tech order criteria versus what we've done for multiple years which was how to do it for the Operational Readiness Inspection," said Maj. Michael Balzotti, 270th ATCS Commander. "For example, convoying up here is not an ORI requirement, but we have to forward deploy in the real world, and this helps prepare us to really gather our gear and set it up where and when we are asked."

The process of staging an exercise at the Chiloquin Airport actually began in January with members of the 270th doing a site survey as well as coordinating with local officials to get the ok. Over the ensuing months, Balzotti says those members chose the locations for all the gear and the activity on the field.

"What we see here is getting it out the door," he said. The 270th ATCS is responsible for day-to-day air traffic control at Kingsley Field and falls under the Oregon Air National Guard Combat Operations Group.