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Airfield operators learn a variety of skills at Keesler

  • Published
  • By Lt. Michael Alvarez
  • 81st Training Wing
Airfield operators perform and manage airfield operations functions and activities, including air traffic control, airfield management and operations to facilitate the flying mission at their base.

"The big challenge is that there is a lot of leadership early on," said Capt. Joshua Ord, 334th Training Squadron instructor supervisor.

The airfield operations officer course teaches second lieutenants the initial skills of becoming an airfield operations officer. They learn how to provide staff supervision and technical assistance, as well as develop and formulate plans and policies for managing and operating Air Force airfield operations.

Early in their career, second lieutenants oversee air traffic control and air field management operations can consist of more than 130 personnel at larger bases. There are also locations, such as Keesler, where airfield operations officers also oversee weather, passenger service and host aviation resource management missions. All of these career fields are taught here at Keesler and can be a mix of Airmen, contractors and civilians.

Air traffic control is the separation and sequencing of aircraft, while airfield management maintains complete oversight of the airport and airfield environment to ensure it safely supports the flying mission. Passenger service checks passenger credentials prior to boarding military aircraft and maintains oversight of the space-available travel program. Host aviation resource management personnel create, maintain and review all aircrew and parachutist records to ensure duty qualifications and eligibility for flight or jump incentive pay. Weather personnel provide the pilots the weather conditions from their departure point through to their final destination.

"Nothing is more satisfying than saving lives and million dollar equipment," said Senior Airman Nigel Songalia, 81st Operations Support Flight.

"Air traffic control is very rewarding within a tower environment. I'm only limited by my imagination and Air Force regulations," said Senior Airman Cody Baker, 81st OSF.

"The size of the flying mission at a base determines the size of the airfield operations support requirements," said Maj. Troy Kirkbride, 81st OSF commander. "At Keesler we have a small shop with about 40 personnel to include contractors, civilians and Airmen. However, since we encompass more than just air traffic control and airfield management, we are an operations support flight rather than an airfield operations flight.
At most locations, functions such as weather and HARM would be their own flights and we would all fall under an operations support squadron, but here at Keesler we are not large enough to be a squadron."