By Story and photos by Capt. Patrick D. MorganOctober 17, 2013
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- When helicopters come in for a landing it's normal for Soldiers standing in the vicinity to take cover behind an object or turn away to avoid dirt, dust or debris that is stirred up from the helicopter's rotors.
There is one group of Soldiers that must always stay focused on their mission to control air and ground traffic in the vicinity of the control tower.
Air traffic control operators normally spend most of their time performing their job inside a tower that's away from the ground. However there are times when ATC Soldiers must leave the comfort of the tower and setup a tactical control tower or facility to be able to control both helicopters in the air and Soldiers on the ground at the pickup zones, or PZs and landing zones, or as LZs.
Recently ATCs assigned to Company F, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment got a chance to test their tactical skills in Okinawa, Japan during Exercise Lejuene II, a joint Army and Marine aerial assault exercise.
"Traditionally people think of air traffic controllers that sit in a tower and monitor little buttons on a radar screen," said Staff Sgt. Terry A. Roberson, of Columbia S.C. "For a training exercise like this one, we put all of the necessary equipment in the back of a Humvee and we takeit to any place in the world to set up operations to conduct PZ and LZ control."
A mission like Exercise Lejuene II requires Staff Sgt. Roberson's ATC team to endure the dust, rain, heat, cold and debris from helicopters for the duration of a mission. Whether it's a 100 degrees or 10 degrees outside, ATC teams must stay focused on the mission and perform with precision and accuracy because there is no room for error.
Getting personnel into and out of a location safely is ATCs sole mission when conducting tactical air traffic control.