Sky’s The Limit: Marines trailblaze multiservice ATC program

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When two Marine air traffic controllers (ATC) faced a once in a lifetime opportunity to help safely operate the busiest airfield in the Republic of Korea (ROK), they eagerly accepted the challenge.

The task paired Pennsylvania natives, Sgt. Adam Burse, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, and Corporal William Chong, MCAS Futenma, Japan, as the first Marines to integrate into a multi-service ATC exchange program.

During the training, they’ve learned and operated Air Force Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) facility concepts under the helm of Osan’s 51st Operations Support Squadron Airmen – enhancing safer flight line operations.

“Jointly operating with the Air Force has definitely improved my job proficiency,” said Burse, who will earn his 7-level watch supervisor rating through the curriculum. “The working relationships we establish here helps with future joint environments through familiarity and understanding on how to mesh together. Hopefully, the ability to learn ATC tactics with our counterparts is just the beginning for joint facility operations across the entire military.”

During their tenure, Chong and Burse are responsible for safely controlling the airspace for aircraft departures and landing. Nestled in a small, dark control room, they control an area that stretches approximately 60 miles in each direction from Osan with a range upwards to 14,000 ft – acting as extra eyes for their tower operation counterparts.

For Chong, it’s no easy task prioritizing aircraft departures and managing multiple planes flying to different destinations with different speeds and maneuvers.

“It’s been tough learning the different air speeds between an A-10C Thunderbolt II and an F-16 Fighting Falcon or sequencing the different airframes with fighters and the U-2 Dragon Lady’s,” said Chong. “However, if I have any question, I know 51st Operations Support Squadron RAPCON will help guide me determine a quick and safe solution in every situation.”

Chong hopes to utilize the different strategies he’s learning at Osan to apply elsewhere.

Despite donning a different uniform, the Marines are adding the same razor sharp thinking skills and fast information processing to assure everyone can accomplish safe, timely and smooth flights around Osan.

Since Burse and Chong’s journey to Osan, two additional Marine ATC’s have been integrated into the program, operating at Kunsan AB. Realizing Osan program’s added value, the Air Force’s ATC career field management has also adopted the training with hopes to send Airmen to Marine installations across the states to duplicate the success.