FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Army News Service, Feb. 25, 2008) -- Air traffic services warrant officers about to embark on a new phase of their careers paused Feb. 13 to listen to a man who was once in their shoes and gain a better perspective of the important role they are about to play in today's Army.

The Soldiers, all members of the third class of the recently reinstated Military Occupational Specialty 150A, Air Traffic and Airspace Management Technician, listened intently to retired CW3 Martin Hammell as he discussed the history of the 150A warrant officer and what it was like to be one of the first Air Traffic and Airspace Management Technicians in the Army.

"(In 1982), leaders identified a need for a technically proficient individual, selected from the (air traffic services) ranks, who would grow as a leader and stay within the ATC community throughout their careers," Hammell said. "Once the concept was approved, the first 150As were boarded in 1982 and subsequently appointed starting in January 1983."

Hammell said the introduction of the 150A warrant officer was just one of many changes happening in the Air Traffic Control arena in the early to mid-1980s. In 1986, three years after the Aviation Branch was formed at Fort Rucker, control of the ATC functional area was transferred from the Signal Branch to the Aviation Branch.

Shortly after the move, during an Army force structure review in 1987, officials decided to eliminate the 150A from active-duty service.

In total, the 150A warrant officer was part of the active Army for less than five years.

"The original 150A program got caught between the realigning of the warrant officer balance and the downsizing and it was unfortunate that it went away because the mission and the need were still there," Hammell said. "The program just didn't make the cut."

Hammell, now the Air Traffic Services Branch Chief with the U.S. Army Forces Command, said the Army force restructuring prevalent in the early 1980s is similar to the force restructuring that has been going on during the past few years. Like the changes made more than 20 years ago, the changes that have been made recently really necessitate the role of the 150A, Hammell said.

"We, as a branch, have undergone significant changes over the past four or five years with Army Aviation transformation," he said. "The (Air Traffic Services) battalions are no more. The ATS companies are now organic to the Combat Aviation Brigades, and we have a new structure called the Theater Airfield Operations Group with their subordinate Airfield Operations Battalions."

Hammell said the changes that have occurred during the past few years have really brought the Air Traffic Services community "full circle" back to when he became a 150A.

"This has been a long time coming," he said.

Master Sgt. Randall Vanlandingham, Air Traffic and Airspace Management Technician course manager, said having one of the original 150A warrant officers discuss the history of the job was a perfect way to start the six-week class.

"I wanted (the students) to hear from someone who worked the job, who went through the full transition from being an enlisted Soldier to being a warrant officer to being an air traffic manager," he said.

Hammell said the students in the 150A class should be very proud of their accomplishments and he wished them luck as they prepare for the next chapter in their Army careers.

"You should all be very proud of your accomplishment of being selected from among many to carry the ATC banner as the next generation of ATC technicians," he said. "You were selected as the best of the best and will do the Army, the Aviation Branch and the air traffic control community proud."