In a large, dimly lit room located in the Nellis Air Traffic Control Facility (NATCF), faces are illuminated only by the reflection of air traffic control radar scopes.
Airmen assigned to the 57th Operation Support Squadron monitor the airways of aircraft departing and landing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as an aircraft transmission comes through —
“Nellis departure Strike 01 airborne.”
“Strike 01, Nellis departure IDENT (procedure used to identify aircraft).”
“Roger, Strike 01, leaving three thousand feet for flight level 190, two miles off departure end of runway.”
“Strike 01, radar contact.”
The lives of aircrews flying above depend greatly on the critical flight information air traffic control specialists on the ground provide in order to prevent accidents.
ATC specialists are responsible for the safety and guidance of air traffic by managing the flow of aircraft for the duration of their flights.
At the NATCF, ATC specialists guide various aircraft types, from helicopter to fighter jets to heavy cargo planes.
Vigorous training and hours of hands on practice prepare ATC specialists to assure the safeguarding of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and thousands of lives on a daily basis.
When Red Flag kicks off at Nellis, the workload intensifies. The increase of air traffic can be challenging for ATC specialists at the NATCF; they use a team concept to ensure flight safety in and out of the Nevada Test and Training Range.
“During Red Flag, [day and night] missions are back to back, causing us to work almost nonstop,” said Senior Airman Orion Furber, 57th OSS air traffic controller. “Even though it’s a lot more work, the exercise allows us to hone our skills and experience wartime training.”
More than 70 ATC specialists work by providing voice instruction over radio to ensure safe airways.
“Throughout Red Flag, controllers are able to gain experience working with foreign allied forces,” said Tech. Sgt. Amy Gardner, 57th OSS assistant chief controller. “These scenarios teach them how to handle language barriers by slowing down their rate of speech and communicating appropriately with allied air forces.
Through attention to detail, ATC specialists are able to promote combat air force lethality by utilizing their training in quick decision making to guide aircraft where they need to go during the Red Flag training scenarios.
“I love working with the aircraft,” said Furber. “I’m proud to be a controller, and I think our mission here at Nellis and with Red Flag really helps the overall U.S. Air Force mission.”
Red Flag 18-3 concluded Aug. 3.