Air power from the tower
Story by Amn Jacob Wrightsman on 09/24/2019
A proficient and highly functional air traffic control tower is a cornerstone to the ever ready fleet of B-52H Stratofortresses here at Barksdale, but the cornerstone of the air traffic control tower is the cohesion of the Airmen who work atop the tower.
Airmen of the 2nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic control tower have dedicated themselves to strengthening the bond of their Air Force family by getting to know each other inside and outside of work in order to better complete the mission.
“I love my job and I love the people” said Staff Sgt. Jordan L. McFarland, 2nd OSS air traffic control craftsman. “We’re literally in this small tower all day and the people around you is all you have.”
The 2nd OSS air traffic control tower is responsible for coordinating the flight patterns of all aircraft that utilize the airfield.
“We facilitate the safe and expeditious flow of aircraft out of the airport,” said Senior Airman Michael K. Hall, 2nd OSS air traffic control journeyman. “So making sure they get off on time, making sure there is no conflicts with other aircraft and making sure proper coordination is accomplished with other facilities.”
With millions of dollars worth of aircraft and the lives of Airmen in their hands, the air traffic controllers hold a great deal of responsibility.
“In a sense it can be pretty stressful,” McFarland said. “We do understand that we have people’s lives in our hands. You have to be able to think quickly on your feet and change things if something’s not working out.”
When stress builds up, it sometimes takes a wingman to recognize when someone is becoming overwhelmed and needs some time to get their head back in the game.
“It goes to knowing your controllers and when they need a break or a breather,” McFarland said. “If you’re up there for too long with constant traffic, you can get to the point where you need to take a step back and refocus.” Hall added.
In a career field that requires Airmen to be alert at all times, it’s important for the 2nd OSS air traffic control tower to know their wingmen inside and out. To accomplish that, the shop holds a group dinner every first Friday of the month.
“We get to see each other outside of work in a more casual environment,” Hall said. “Seeing people outside of work allows you to better know when someone is having a bad day.”
Inside and outside of work, Barksdale’s air traffic controllers understand the correlation between unit cohesion and mission success. If the unit doesn’t take the time to know their wingmen and recognize when someone is a little off, mission success could be in jeopardy.
“We know each controllers strength and weaknesses,” McFarland said. “We put each controller in a position we know they can handle otherwise it could end in disaster.”
When it comes time for planes to fly and missions to be executed, the air traffic controllers of Barksdale’s 2nd OSS will be standing at the ready.
“I love telling people I’m an air traffic controller,” McFarland said. “I love what I do.”