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ATC Icemen train Army for fixed-wing aircraft

U.S. Army Spcs. Paul Murray and Christopher Smades, Fox Company 1-51, Aviation Battalion air traffic control specialists, practice standard control tower measures with Master Sgt. Dustin Rogstad, 354th Operations Support Squadron tower control chief, Jan. 14, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Murray and Smades have been training since August with Air Force controllers on fixed-wing air traffic control procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft/Released)

U.S. Army Spcs. Paul Murray and Christopher Smades, Fox Company 1-51, Aviation Battalion air traffic control specialists, practice standard control tower measures with Master Sgt. Dustin Rogstad, 354th Operations Support Squadron tower control chief, Jan. 14, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Murray and Smades have been training since August with Air Force controllers on fixed-wing air traffic control procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Paul Murray, Fox Company 1-52, Aviation Battalion, air traffic control specialist, watches the flight line for incoming aircraft Dec. 20, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Murray is training with Air Force air traffic controllers to prepare for an upcoming deployment in which he will guide and direct primarily fixed-wing aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Paul Murray, Fox Company 1-52, Aviation Battalion, air traffic control specialist, watches the flight line for incoming aircraft Dec. 20, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Murray is training with Air Force air traffic controllers to prepare for an upcoming deployment in which he will guide and direct primarily fixed-wing aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Smades speaks with a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot while Spc. Paul Murray watches the flight line for any hazards Jan. 14, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Murray and Smades, Fox Company 1-51, Aviation Battalion air traffic control specialists, are training with Air Force air traffic controllers in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Smades speaks with a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot while Spc. Paul Murray watches the flight line for any hazards Jan. 14, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Murray and Smades, Fox Company 1-51, Aviation Battalion air traffic control specialists, are training with Air Force air traffic controllers in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Air traffic controllers are nothing new to the Army. The difference is that most of their experience applies to rotary-wing aircraft rather than the usual fixed-wing aircraft flown by the Air Force.

Two Fort Wainwright Soldiers, however, are getting the best of both worlds.

Spcs. Paul Murray and Christopher Smades, Fox Company 1-52, Aviation Battalion air traffic control specialists, have trained with Icemen controllers since August in preparation for an upcoming deployment where they will guide and direct mostly fixed-wing aircraft.

The standards of the Air Force, Murray said, are different in that the two Soldiers have to relearn the air traffic control mindset. For him, the experience feels like a clean slate.

"It's been challenging, almost like starting over," Murray said. "It's very fast-paced, so you've got to have an open mind with everything that's happening around you. You learn to think and act very quickly to situations."

Murray said the amount of increased situational awareness needed has given him a new outlook on being a tower controller.

"I definitely feel like this is going to further my career and help me develop in my job," he said. "I know I wouldn't be able to get this kind of training anywhere else and it's helped me learn so much more about being a controller."

This experience has benefited both Air Force and Army members, said Master Sgt. Dustin Rogstad, 354th Operations Support Squadron tower chief controller.

"It's an excellent opportunity for both services to work together in a joint capacity," he said. "It's important for us to learn from each other so we can better our capabilities in the future, whether it's downrange or at home."

The Soldiers' training will also allow them to become certified through the Federal Aviation Administration, furthering their abilities as air traffic controllers.

"While it's completely different from what I've learned from the Army, I feel privileged to be getting this kind of experience with the Air Force," said Smades. "It's not only going to help prepare for our deployment but it's also going help us years down the road."

At the end of the day, the training is vital for the Army's continued presence in deployed locations.

"There's no downside to this," Murray said. "It's only going to further our capabilities overseas and help us do our job and win the fight."