By Tech. Sgt. Sienna M. Schehr
159th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
ALEXANDRIA, La. – Airmen from the Louisiana National Guard’s 259th Air Traffic Control Squadron keep the skies safe by directing air traffic at Central Louisiana’s major airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While the majority of the nation’s airports have civilian controllers in charge, these Louisiana Airmen of the 259th ATCS, one of 10 air traffic control squadrons in the Air National Guard, are the primary controllers at the Alexandria International Airport.
They also maintain the “Ready, Reliable, and Relevant” status for state and federal missions at all times.
“The 259th has three main missions: 24/7 operation of the tower, a federal mission and a state mission,” said 259th ATCS Commander Maj. Kevin. S. Eggler, of Prattville, Ala. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of committed Airmen who do their job with integrity and pride.”
The Airmen manage the locations of hundreds of aircraft each day, which translates to more than 45,000 annual operations. They keep the aircraft at safe distances from each other and guide them during takeoff and landings with minimal delay.
“Seeing the diverse range of aircraft at a civilian airport allows me to become a more disciplined, efficient and competent air traffic controller,” said Senior Airman William S. Pearce III, an air traffic control journeyman from Bunkie. “The transition from a military only base to a civilian airport has made me a more knowledgeable controller by teaching me the logistics and planning that is necessary for the safe and expeditious handling of civilian aircraft.”
Additionally, the 259th ATCS controllers perform the demanding task of monitoring the weather and reroute aircraft when necessary, according to specialized procedures.
“These procedures are basically specific routes of flight that pilots fly using only their instruments and not looking out their windows,” said air traffic control craftsman Tech. Sgt.
Benjamin W. Calhoun, from Anacoco. “They ensure that pilots flying in the blind will not collide with terrain or obstructions such as mountains, towers, et cetera.
“If you imagine taking off or landing during a thunderstorm; the pilot is able to fly through low level clouds, because he or she is flying an instrument procedure,” he said.
The central Louisiana airport has two intersecting runways. Pilots must establish two-way communications with the tower prior to entering the airspace and maintain those communications while in the airspace.
“You get an adrenaline rush when it gets busy in here,” said Tech. Sgt. Lawrence C. Pharr, an air traffic control craftsman from New Orleans. “This is the best job with an opportunity to extend my career as a civilian when I retire from the Air National Guard.”
“Eighty percent of our traditional controllers are full-time controllers with the FAA at locations such as Louis Armstrong, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport and Dallas/Fort Worth airports,” said Calhoun.
The 259th ATCS and Alexandria International Airport are both located in England Airpark and provide a great service to the surrounding communities, servicing helipads for both major hospitals and law enforcement agencies. The Airmen also share the tower with 10 Department of Defense civilians who are all retired Air Force controllers.
Please visit http://www.dvidshub.net/units/LAANG for the latest Louisiana National Guard releases, photos and videos.