53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron redesignated to 53rd Combat Airfield Operations Squadron

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

The 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron was redesignated during a ceremony at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, June 23, 2023.  It is now known as the 53rd Combat Airfield Operations Squadron, which remains under the 461st Air Control Wing, at Robins within the Air Combat Command.

“The national defense strategy has delivered us new marching orders,” said Col. Keith McGuire, 461st ACW Operations Group commander. “The 53rd finds itself in the middle of this strategic shift launching a new concept, which involves a spectrum of airfield capabilities involving landing zones, airfield surveys, air traffic control services and air surveillance services. Anywhere in the world, there is almost always an Airman with the 53rd in theater supporting real world deterrents.”

According to McGuire, 53rd CAOS is the only active-duty combat airfield operations squadron in the Air Force, and it will continue to provide mobile air traffic control support, radar maintenance and airfield maintenance.

The new strategy moves from counter-insurgency operations from fixed locations to contested environments and competition with adversaries.

“We have the ability to start from scratch,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Gracy, 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron outgoing commander, during the 53rd CAOS change of command ceremony that took place right after the redesignation ceremony.

“Our Airmen can operate in austere locations with no runway or power and turn it into a functional airfield.

“Our Gators are in demand because they solve airfield problems for others,” Gracy continued. ”I could not be prouder to have led this team and see what they have accomplished.”

The new commander for 53rd CAOS is Lt. Col. Charles Chapot, and he addressed the squadron during the ceremony.

“I’m excited about joining the ranks of the 53rd in this new age of airfield operations,”  Chapot addressed those in attendance. “This redesignation is more than a witty acronym, it’s an affirmation the Air Force has a rapid capability to survive threats and to provide air power. Gators, you should be beaming with pride, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

During the redesignation ceremony, the guidon for the 53rd ATCS was passed, furled, and sheathed. It was followed by the 53rd CAOS guidon being unfurled and raised, which signified the shift to the new name and mission.

53rd CAOS’ foundation is built on a legacy of name changes at Robins.

In May 2015, the 53rd Combat Communications Squadron, which was aligned under the 5th Combat Communications Group with Air Force Space Command, was redesignated as the 53rd ATCS.

“This redesignation is a tangible implementation of an Air Force redesigning itself,” said McGuire. “Airmen with the 53rd are capable of doing a lot of different things, which include maintaining and operating complex machines to picking up a rifle to defend themselves.  So whatever or wherever, the 53rd is ready to mobilize.”