Combat comm sets up air traffic control in Perry

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Members of the 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins - the only remaining active duty combat communications group in the Air Force - are able to provide rapid-response capabilities to any military tasking or humanitarian relief effort in the world at any time.

In particular, when it comes to staying proficient in air traffic control duties, its members regularly train throughout the year in all areas of mobile control tower set-up and take-down procedures.

The group's latest exercise was conducted Feb. 24 through 28 with a blend of air traffic controllers and maintainers.

Located just west of the Guardian Centers in Perry, the Perry-Houston County Airport provided a training site for the 15 members throughout the week to communicate with private aircraft flying into the airport.

"Every aspect of what we do out here is training," said Tech Sgt. Joseph Menendez with the 53rd Combat Communications Squadron. "From driving the trucks to the location to running the wires, this provides an opportunity for us to maintain our proficiencies as well as talk to the aircraft."

An established central position adjacent to the airfield provided an ideal location for a mobile control tower to perform its operations during the week.

The tower was transported from Robins to Perry on the back of a Humvee, which can be raised several feet in the air to provide an elevated view for two air traffic controllers to communicate with civilian and transient aircraft.

Although small, the tower provides everything one needs to perform air control operations in any austere landing strip. There are radios, light guns, a crash phone, recorder - all the tools to get the job done during each day's 10-hour shift.

For the three days the air traffic controllers are on the job, close to 100 calls will have been made assisting pilots with take-off and landing clearances, communication and more.

"As controllers we are able to brush up on our phraseology. If you don't use it, you lose it," said Tech Sgt. Joshua Clifton with the 53rd CBCS.

None of these capabilities would exist without the support of nearby power generators and two antennas, maintained by airfield systems technicians and electrical power production professionals who continuously oversee their use.

Setting up that power takes no more than two hours, but the team accomplishes their goal within 90 minutes.

"This training allows us to be more proficient when the time comes for us to set this up. At the same time, we're also able to support the people around Perry with their flight missions," said Senior Airman Adam Spittle, 53rd CBCS airfield systems technician.