Hawaii Air Traffic Controllers Train to Fight

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais
  • Air Force Print News
Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 297th Air Traffic Control Squadron are involved in a four-day exercise here.

The 297th provides wartime air traffic control and landing support to commanders in contingency situations. The exercise simulates a real-world deployment.

Most of the Airmen involved are part-timers, but they’ve also done their share of deploying. The Air National Guard owns the majority of the Air Force’s deployable air traffic control and landing systems, and Guardsmen voluntarily fill a quarter of all the Air Force’s air traffic control deployment requirements. This Total Force arrangement takes some weight off active duty Airmen and gives Guardsmen bigger roles in contingency operations.

“In 2003 they deployed to Diego Garcia. They were activated and helped with the shock and awe campaign. They provided RADAR air traffic control services,” said Major Mark Welch, the 297TH Air Traffic Control Squadron’s commander. “They got home from that and we were back out the door to Mosul, Iraq, in the ’04 - ’05 timeframe,” he said.

“Weekend Warrior” has been a playful nickname for Airmen in the Air National Guard for years, but it hardly fits anymore. As the Air Force develops its Total Force concept, the guard’s role and responsibilities integrate with those of the active duty. Today’s Guardsmen are taking an increasingly active role in Air Force operations.

Since the 297th is a combat communications squadron, its Airmen require specialty training, like designing site defense and security plans. This exercise provides that, and ultimately prepares the Guardsmen to continue deploying air traffic support wherever it’s needed.

“We have people who are out there helping, doing the mission, and not only doing the mission but doing an outstanding job at doing the mission,” said Major Welch.