270th Air Traffic Control Squadron exercises on Oregon Coast
By Staff Sgt. Penny Snoozy, 173 FW/PA
/ Published August 18, 2016
NEWPORT, Ore. -- The 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron mobilized for this year's annual training Aug. 8, 2016, convoying all their gear and Airmen nearly 300 miles to Newport, Ore., for a week. Members set up their MSN-7 mobile tower, TRN-48 Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) system, and all supporting equipment for the exercise, all of which allow them to guide aircraft into and out of any airfield in the world.
Responding to a natural disaster is a logical scenario for this unit says Master Sgt. Luduska Wright, the 270th ATCS First Sergeant.
"The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a serious threat and our operations are vital for rescue and recovery." She adds that preparing for an event like the earthquake and resulting tsunami is crucial training experience, and this is likely the only chance they can all train together this year. If called by the governor, these Airmen will respond within 72 hours.
"You want well trained Airmen when faced with that kind of pressure" says Wright.
Senior Airman David Hunter, a 270th Logistics Management Specialist and coordinator for this year's training, explained that the Newport Municipal Airport was surveyed and reported to be a safe zone in the case of a disaster like the Cascadia event. This means deploying their members and equipment at this specific airfield is realistic both in terms of an actual deployment and also in adapting to a new environment.
"Everything out here is a little different for us," Hunter explained about the training location and conditions.
Traveling from the high desert of sunny Klamath Falls, the coastal conditions tested the capabilities of the mobile air traffic control tower and the controllers utilizing it. Tech. Sgt. Raymond Murphy, the Non Commissioned Officer in Charge of training and standardization for the 270th ATCS, said that, "Newport provided a mix of varied weather--one minute it can be socked-in and foggy and the next minute you can have clear skies."
The deployable equipment challenged controllers with elements like reduced radio quality. Murphy emphasized how important it was for the controllers to gain experience and learn this information so members can bring their experiences back and be better prepared for their next mission.
Airfield Systems maintainers also had the chance to test the TACAN, a system that acts as a reference point for aircraft. Tech. Sgt. Mark Chinander, 270th Airfield Systems Craftsman, explained that this was the first time his shop has had an aircraft that could tune in and use the TACAN to their benefit. Coast Guard Sector North Bend's helicopter planned to follow the approach laid out by the TACAN to verify that the equipment was operational and accurate.
Upon arrival, the airfield at Newport provided a blank canvas. This presented a new challenge as previous training locations had power or a grounding grid in place, according to Chinander. When staging the 270th equipment, members initially struggled to get the tower and TACAN grounded.
With everything hinging on the ability to get power to this equipment, Chinander said they obtained additional resources to get the electrical resistance between the ground and their equipment low enough to reach operational levels. By the morning of the second day, all equipment was operational.
As Tech. Sgt. Jason Lane, 270th ATCS, said "The best way to test your skills is to perform outside of your comfort zone."
While the air traffic controllers manned the airfield Senior Master Sgt. Robert Foreman, Chief of Maintenance for the 270th, gathered members to participate in some off-road training. Guardsmen took out two five-ton cargo trucks to practice driving and directing the vehicles through mountainous terrain. Members also had the chance to employ chainsaws and machetes that allow them to clear paths for the five tons and clear brush for equipment staging.
"Mobility training like learning to drive our five ton trucks, using the wenches to get them unstuck, or using chainsaws ..." provides Airmen with the skills necessary to operate in response to a domestic response like a natural disaster said Capt. Alex Fugate, the 270th Chief of Air Traffic Control Operations.
The 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron's annual training in Newport, designated Badger Sunburn, was able to successfully stage their equipment and provide the air traffic services and support capabilities their mission outlines.
Staff Sgt. Kristin Cotton said her squadron, "is very good at ensuring that all our members are trained to the full extent of their career fields and I feel it provides a great force to the Air National Guard."
The 270th ATCS, located in Klamath Falls, Ore., provides fixed based air traffic control for the sole F-15 training house at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base.