KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The safety and flight path of aircraft operating on Keesler depend on the Airmen inside the Air Traffic Control Tower. The 81st Training Wing’s Operations Support Flight monitors and directs the aircraft on the flightline and local airspace, ensuring the fluidity of the air traffic.
Working the tower 15 hours daily and being on continuous standby during peak storm season, the OSF contributes to the mission at all times.
“There are multiple responsibilities we hold in the tower including communicating with different units, directing the traffic on the flightline and guiding all air traffic,” said Airman 1st Class Jacob Penny, 81st TRW air traffic controller. “If we are not maintaining or monitoring the area, we are training and broadening our skillsets.”
Keesler is home to the 403rd Wing, which organizes, equips, trains and performs all weather surveillance for the area.
“We support the Hurricane Hunters 24 hours a day during storm season,” said Penny. “We are here to direct any unit or aircraft in the area using our flightline. Providing them with safety and direction allows them to adhere to their mission and get any weather reconnaissance they need.”
Though the OSF works to aid any unit or mission, their contribution to the 81st TRW is essential. Operations such as medical emergencies and flying basic military training trainees straight to Keesler to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are prime examples of the OSF’s importance in the training mission.
“We are assigned to the 81st Wing Staff Agency and fall under the 81st TRW and 2nd Air Force for administrative control, but for operational control, we report to 19th Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Travis Schupp, 81st TRW ATC tower chief controller. “This allows us more opportunities to network with other agencies and career fields on Keesler that we wouldn’t normally connect with on a regular basis if assigned to an Operations Group or Flying Wing.”
As the tower chief controller, Schupp ensures the air traffic controllers are fully capable to support the home station mission efficiently and provides multi-capable Air Traffic Controllers to Combatant Commanders down range.
“Our facility supports approximately 10 thousand operations per year,” said Schupp. “We are here to assist any operations in our area and the flying missions of the base.”