270th Air Traffic Control Squadron Airmen make ANG history during Joint Patriot North 21 exercise

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Laduska Dewitt
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

Airmen from the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon operated a mobile air traffic control unit during Patriot North 21 at Ft McCoy, Wisconsin, June 2021. PATRIOT 21 is a training exercise designed for civilian emergency management and responders to work with military entities in the same manner that they would during disasters. Fifty-nine different agencies worked together to demonstrate the ability to respond to the aftermath of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake leveling the Mid-West.

The Airmen of the 270th ATCS proved to be a vital entity as they controlled 133 aircraft that delivered supplies, provided MedEvacs for casualties, controlled search and rescue efforts, and enabled Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations, while proving the ability to operate in Instrument Flight Rules, known as IFR, conditions.  IFR conditions are defined when visibility is lower than three miles and/or the sky ceiling is less than 1,000 feet.

The 270th ATCS achieved several milestones during this exercise as they deployed the Deployable Instrument Landing System, the Mobile Tactical Air Navigation System, Tower and a new Agile Combat Employment (ACE) Concept Radar package known as Q-Radar.  This was the first time in Air National Guard history a radar air traffic controller was able to communicate with live aircraft during annual training, proving the IFR capabilities during Domestic Operations events. 

The lack of a mobile radar system that can withstand the rigors of exercises has been felt hard across the Air Traffic Control community. ACE enables innovative and creative solutions for real world problems. Another milestone achieved using the ACE concept was the Landing Zone Safety Officer package. LZSO operations have become highly sought after by the flying community as we train for a different type of warfighting. A team of LZSO qualified Airmen from the 243rd ATCS, Wyoming Air National Guard trained 11 Airmen on how to establish and control an LZSO during the exercise. This training led to the completion of a short field landing on a landing strip by a C-17 Globemaster.

This was the first time in 270th ATCS history that the entire concept of establishing a controlled airport has been accomplished from start to finish. It began when the 270th Airmen assumed a handoff from the Tactical Air Control Party specialist from North Carolina Guard, while employing the use of all of their mobile equipment. They ensured a legal Landing Zone was established, Radar handled aircraft outside five miles, then switched them to tower frequencies where aircraft were then directed to the correct landing areas. Upon departure the tower cleared the aircraft and controlled them until five miles away from the airport and then shipped them to radar, who controls them until they hit another controller’s airspace. At the end of the exercise the airfield was wiped clean and returned to an uncontrolled landing strip. The LZSO and the Radar have been the missing ingredients in this very vital recipe for air traffic control during Domestic Operations.

This annual training event was only the beginning for the 270th ATCS as they strive for bigger milestones in the years to come; however, what they accomplished this year made history in the ANG.