By Jeremy WiseMarch 24, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- They are the ones who support the Aviation community here and abroad, and Air Traffic Services personnel discussed ways to increase capabilities in support of that mission during their conference held here March 16-19.
ATSCOM, known as "Freedom's Voice," hosted about 250 attendees representing a multitude of Army ATS units and agencies during the 2010 Air Traffic Services Leaders Conference. Members of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps Air Traffic Services communities also represented and enhanced the conference.
"This annual conference is a great forum to discuss the way ahead on the issues that we, the ATS community face - from design structure to equipping Soldiers to training," said Col. Jon Goodsmith, Air Traffic Services Command and 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group commander. "We are a dedicated community, and we are working hard to address the issues."
One of the main topics discussed was airfield management. Over time, airfield management evolved into an ATS function, leading to the creation of airfield operations battalions almost three years ago, Goodsmith said. These battalions manage everything from refueling operations to maintenance to air traffic control services.
A lack of internal resources within the Airfield Operations Battalion structure forces AOB Soldiers to carry out these functions in addition to their normal duties, Goodsmith said. Because of this organizational design, either contractors or Soldiers from Theater Support Command must augment the AOBs to perform those airfield management services outside of air traffic control.
To help train our AOB Soldiers to perform that mission, ATSCOM personnel worked closely with Air Force and Marine airfield management instructors to develop our own Contingency Airfield Management Workshop, according to Ron Spires from ATSCOM Fixed Base Division. This first-ever workshop provided a foundation for professional training and development programs for AOB airfield managers. They trained 54 active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers here in February, Goodsmith said
ATSCOM plans to conduct the workshop twice annually, with the next one tentatively scheduled for October. This workshop is a bridging strategy until a TRADOC-approved course can be developed, Goodsmith added.
Another issue discussed was airfield lighting, an issue initially brought up at last year's conference.
Airfields in theater lacked portable lighting systems, and ATS personnel submitted a request for four. The Department of the Army approved the request in December, and contracts are set to be awarded in the third quarter of the 2010 fiscal year. Installation should begin by October.
ATSCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Lee Kennedy thought one of the most important developments that occurred in the conference was the future concept to marry the Tactical Airspace Integration System with Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System.
The TAIS system can provide Air Traffic Services while traveling, and ATNAVICS provides surveillance and precision approach radar control, according to Jim Kelton of the Office of the Product Manager for Air Traffic Control Systems, Redstone Arsenal. Merging the two "will create a bigger picture for a commander and give him a huge amount of more information to orchestrate (missions)," Kennedy said.
During the conference, Goodsmith mentioned the reorganization of the 597th Ordnance (Maintenance) Company into a detachment. The unit will lose 25 to 27 Soldiers from the command group, he said but will not lose any of its support capability to the ATS units.
ATSCOM leaders and conference attendees felt that the conference surpassed the goals that they had established for this year's ATSLC.
"The biggest benefit is the networking. The relationship building was tremendous," Kennedy said. "People were open and honest."
"Most important was the information we've exchanged with all the talent we've had here," Goodsmith added.