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Kadena air traffic controllers keep eyes on sky

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Louis Kelley and Senior Airman Aaron Funari, 18th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controllers, look out at the flightline July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. As the Air Force’s largest combat wing, Kadena's airfield is one of the busiest in the Air Force. The operations of the 18th OSS ATC Airmen keep processes running smoothly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Louis Kelley and Senior Airman Aaron Funari, 18th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controllers, look out at the flightline July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. As the Air Force’s largest combat wing, Kadena's airfield is one of the busiest in the Air Force. The operations of the 18th OSS ATC Airmen keep processes running smoothly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Petrie, 18th Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of air traffic control training, monitors the flightline July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Air traffic controllers undergo extensive training to ensure proper flight operations for different airframes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Petrie, 18th Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of air traffic control training, monitors the flightline July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Air traffic controllers undergo extensive training to ensure proper flight operations for different airframes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

Air traffic controllers from the 18th Operations Support Squadron monitor the flightline for safety risks July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena is the largest combat wing in the Pacific. Safety during flightline operations is of the utmost importance for Kadena’s air traffic controllers.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

Air traffic controllers from the 18th Operations Support Squadron monitor the flightline for safety risks July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena is the largest combat wing in the Pacific. Safety during flightline operations is of the utmost importance for Kadena’s air traffic controllers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Richard Delgado, 18th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, speaks with a pilot July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena’s multiple airframes and many missions require constant communication between pilots and ATC Airmen to operate safely. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Richard Delgado, 18th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, speaks with a pilot July 21, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena’s multiple airframes and many missions require constant communication between pilots and ATC Airmen to operate safely. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Air traffic controllers have the extremely demanding task of clearing the path for pilots of multiple airframes; being their eyes on the ground as the pilots keep their eyes on the sky.

The 18th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controllers provide quality air traffic services for Kadena.

“Here at Kadena Air Base, we provide air traffic services for multiple airframes in all branches of service,” said Staff Sgt. Dennis Beasley, 18th OSS air traffic controller. “We work with many different facilities around the island, including Naha center, Naha approach control, and Futenma Air Base. We also work with many facilities around the base, including airfield management, command post, and transient alert.”

Providing air traffic services for the island of Okinawa requires teamwork. Air traffic controllers need to work with one another to keep the runway processes operating smoothly.

“Without us, they’re not getting off the ground, so I think we’re very vital in providing peace in the Pacific,” said Beasley. “If any conflict were to arise, I’m very confident in the people I work with that we would be able to stay calm and provide fast and efficient air traffic services for the aircraft that need to get out of here, to provide our mission in the Pacific.”

Although the work is challenging and requires constant training, it comes with its own set of rewards.

“Here on Kadena, we deal with multiple aircraft, multiple airframes, and it’s a pretty difficult airspace around here,” said Senior Airman Edgar Figueroa, 18th OSS air traffic controller. “This is one of the most important jobs in the military. It can get pretty complex and high-paced here. We’re always training; you’re never proficient enough, you can always learn more. I love it, I love everything we do.”

All of the training and learning which occurs on the job pays off in the end when an F-15 flies by and the feeling of satisfaction sets in.

“It’s very rewarding to see the F-15s fly by,” said Beasley. “It makes you really appreciate the job. It makes you feel like a part of the mission; you’re helping the planes get up in the air. When you hear that they’re going TDY somewhere, you’re the one making it happen; you’re the one getting them there; they wouldn’t leave this air base without you, so it’s very rewarding to see them fly off.”