243rd ATC more than controllers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nichole Grady
  • 153rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Air traffic control isn't for the faint of heart. But for the Airmen of the 243rd Air Traffic Control Squadron, keeping an eye on the sky isn't just a job, it's a passion.

"Folks that do this job have to have a passion about it," said Maj. Pedro Rampolla, chief of Air Traffic Control Operations. "If it's a bad stress you probably don't want to do this job."

Tasked with enormous responsibilities, some might buckle under pressure, but the challenge and love for the job drives these Airmen to be the best.

"It's exciting when you have a lot of airplanes," said Rampolla. "Will it get stressful while you're doing that? Yeah, but it's that high of getting to do your job."

To become a member of the 243rd ATC is a long and stressful process. Unlike many career fields, technical training does not guarantee a career in air traffic control. The 72-day course is merely the beginning of lengthy training, said Rampolla.

Airmen typically must complete 6-12 months of on the job training at their home base. During that time trainees are still at risk of washing out of the air traffic control program.

"Tech school is more of a test to see if you have necessary skills," said 1st Lt. Andrew Korsgarden, chief of Air Traffic Control Operations. "It teaches trainees the basics of air traffic control in a simulated environment."

After initial training, Airmen are certified to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards. To retain their skill set, air traffic controllers must train and perform duties often, said Rampolla. As a result many traditional guardsmen also work as civilian air traffic controllers.

"Very rarely do you get the school teacher that wants to be an air traffic controller on the weekend," said Rampolla. "Most of our folks do the job, they like doing the job and that becomes what they want to do on the outside."

The mission of the Wyoming Air National Guard ATC squadron is unique; being only one of 10 squadrons in the nation to support air traffic control facilities, in addition to maintaining a vital role deploying personnel and equipment worldwide.

"Our controllers aren't strictly operators, they're part of the whole mobility mission," said Rampolla. "They're out with their hard hats helping set up the equipment."

A unique and vital part of the Guard air traffic control mission includes establishing bare bases in locations without existing air traffic control facilities. By providing the essential facilities and equipment necessary, guardsmen ensure operational capabilities for their fellow active duty air traffic controllers.

"If a bare base needs to be set up they'll pull from the Guard units," said Korsgarden. "Our mission is more of the setup, to get the base going and provide world wide deployment to bare base operations, active duty doesn't really have that."

Upon arriving in a deployed environment, the ATC Airmen must be able to set up an operating mobile control tower within 90 minutes.

"We bring a lot more to the mission," said Rampolla.

With so many job requirements the ATC Airmen continually train to stay current on all areas of their unique job.

The passion and dedication of the Airmen of WyANG ATC squadron is evident in their commitment to bring the best the Guard has to offer to the skies both here and abroad.