243rd Air Traffic Control Squadron celebrates 20 years of distinguished service

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- More than 20 years ago history was being made in more ways than one.

On Nov. 1, 1996, the 242nd Air Traffic Control Flight in Spokane, Washington, was transferred and re-designated to the Wyoming Air National Guard as the 243rd Air Traffic Control Squadron. This began a new chapter in Wyoming Air National Guard history and established the 243rd as the first air traffic control squadron in the nation.

Twenty years later, members of the 243rd commemorated a decade's worth of challenges, accomplishments and innovation. Through the years, its airmen have continued to execute missions for its communities, the Air National Guard and United States Air Force.

"It's important to observe our 20th anniversary so our folks understand the origin of deployable airfield systems, see how we evolved to today, but most importantly look forward into our role in future joint operations," said Maj. Michael Coyle, 243rd ATC commander. "Our systems are evolving and digitizing. A new era of air traffic control is emerging. We, as a force, must continue to learn, evolve, train, and be ready."

Before the 243rd became one of the top air traffic control squadrons in the nation, the journey to greatness proved challenging. Before operations could begin, aircrews had to conduct the first unit type code assembly, a specialized code indicating the amount of personnel and radar equipment being sent down range, a task which had never been accomplished in a C-130 cargo aircraft. Despite this, airlift crews from the 243rd proved they were up to the task, successfully transferring the radar system.

Through the years the squadron has endured challenges as well as successes, but for the airmen of the 243rd, the squadron holds a special place in their hearts and careers. Today the unit houses nearly 65 members and continues to fulfill the air traffic control needs of the Cheyenne community while fulfilling Air National Guard and Air Force missions.

"Every day was different. It was fun because of the people," said retired Senior Master Sgt. Ken Teasley, unit deployment manager. "The people are what make this unit what it is."

Prior to the squadron's Wyoming arrival, the Cheyenne control tower was limited to Federal Aviation Administration visual flight rules, forcing controllers to rely on eyesight. With the arrival of the radar equipment, controllers' capabilities expanded to be able to see aircraft below 3,000 feet and extended the unit's control over Cheyenne airspace.

The transfer was the result of a cooperative effort between the FAA and the ANG, designed to streamline air traffic control services to where they were most needed. Through all the changes and accomplishments, the squadron has continued to maintain difficult training standards while also making members feel like family.

"It just seems like a family," said Airman 1st Class Dallas Toon, an air traffic controller apprentice. "I already feel like I'm a part of it. It's good to look back on the squadron's roots and know what I'm a part of."

Spanning more than two decades of distinguished service, airmen of the 243rd ATCS have received numerous awards and recognitions including:
  • Cheyenne Trophy recipient (1998, 2003) Air Traffic Control Squadron Facility of the Year (2003)
  • Air Traffic Control Training Achievement award (2003)
  • D. Ray Hardin Air Traffic Control Facility of the Year award (2004, 2007, 2014)
  • Tower Facility of the Year Award recipient (2006, 2008, 2013)
  • US Air Force Special Achievement Award "The Mr. Randall Headrick Award," (2008) - a first for an Air National Guard member
  • Terminal Instrument Procedures of the Year (2010)
    Radar Facility of the Year (2014)
  • Small Air Traffic Control Approach Landing Systems Team of the Year (2015)
  • First Air Traffic Control Squadron to Air Transport the TRN-48 Tactical Air Navigation via C-130 (2016)