Story and photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault
4th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Quick thinking, auctioneer-like speaking ability and high awareness skills were needed for four air traffic controller specialists from 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, who were the first from the new unit to train to be certified as control tower operators at Butts Army Airfield, Jan. 25.
The Soldiers, all from Company F, 2nd Battalion (General Support), 4th Aviation Regiment, attended the training program designed to train first-time air traffic controllers and recertify or rate control tower operator card holders.
First-time controllers train for 154 days, in which the students must attend class at least four hours a day and recertifying CTO card holders train at their own pace until program requirements are met. Certification for air traffic controllers is required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The specific purpose of this training is to educate air traffic controllers to take this training they are receiving here at Butts Army Airfield to a tactical environment anywhere in the world,” said Greg Bean, air traffic control specialist lead instructor.
“Soldiers will use this knowledge of sequencing and separating aircraft on a regular basis. We are giving Soldiers a solid training program to build knowledge out of the FAA regulations, along with Army regulations.”
The hardest part of the course is to know the layout of the airfield that the controller is working on, said Bean. He said each runway, taxiway, piece of pavement and grass area has a name; controllers have to know all these names to properly direct aviators to get them safely to their correct locations.
Bean and the three other instructors have a 100-percent success rate qualifying controllers.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Burnell, air traffic controller noncommissioned officer in charge, Company F, is the team leader for the course. An air traffic control specialist for five years, Burnell is a CTO card holder and is recertifying while supervising his Soldiers.
He said a controller’s job is the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic. Burnell said all of his Soldiers are doing well progressing through the program and retaining the knowledge regarding rules, regulations, airspace and the layout of airfield.
“I love being an air traffic controller and it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, because you get to hear the pilots say ‘thank you,’” said Burnell. “When pilots are flying around, they can’t always see everything. We make traffic calls trying to save lives. It’s a rewarding job because everyone gets to go home safely.”
After the 154-day training program, the Soldiers will take the training they learned and use it to set up airfields in tactical environments and teach other air traffic controllers assigned to 4th CAB.