ATC: Eyes in the sky support VS23 24/7 ops

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Isaiah J. Soliz
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 8th Operations Support Squadron’s (OSS) air traffic control (ATC) personnel are the eyes in the sky for the Wolf Pack. They help ensure the safety of aircraft both on the ground and in the airspace surrounding Kunsan, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Air traffic controllers are responsible for monitoring and directing all aspects of flight - from traversing the flightline to take offs, landings, and navigating above the airfield. They control air traffic through visual, radar and non-radar methods while providing a safe and orderly flow of aircraft.

“We are here to best solve managerial problems and ensure all aircraft are safely able to execute their flying mission,” said Staff Sgt. Markum Jensen, 8th OSS air traffic controller.

Jensen said their specialized skills are put to the test every day, but even more so during the Pacific Air Forces annual command sponsored Combined Flying Training Event (CFTE), VIGILANT STORM 23, as it brought an influx of air traffic over Kunsan’s skies.

Senior Airman Shawn Kelly, 8th OSS air traffic controller, noted controllers often find themselves in situations in which they need to think and react quickly; an increase in aircraft or aircraft activity heightens their responsibility.

“Our day-to-day operations tempo increases simply because of the surge of aircraft we have to provide service to,” said Tech. Sgt. Paul Gary. “It’s wonderful being an integral part of the Wolf Pack mission because I know what I do every single day is protecting hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.”

Wolf Pack Airmen share the tower with their Republic of Korea Air Force counterparts, where they both help drive Kunsan operations.

“We are responsible for local flying operations, and we also provide support to Korean commercial aircraft or any other aircraft that may need our airspace or assistance,” said Jensen.

Each shift in the ATC tower is manned with air traffic control watch supervisors who are charged with ensuring their team remains vigilant in their attention to detail so daily operations and surges are conducted safely.

“My job is no different than our front-line controllers,” said Jensen. “We all have the same certifications, but watch supervisors are here as the last line of defense in terms of safety and mainly to provide oversight of the team.”

The air traffic controllers of the 8th OSS understand that they play a critical role in the Fight Tonight mission and remain committed to ensuring 8th Fighter Wing assets can execute safely.

“We specialize in making sure we can maintain our air superiority and are prepared to take the fight North, if necessary,” finished Gary.