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Multiple Outstanding Performers at 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jodi Snyder
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing

The 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 171st Air Refueling Wing, had multiple winners of various Airfield Operation Division awards at the National Guard level.

The categories of the competition included Air Traffic Control and Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems for both military members and civilians. There were multiple competitors in each category from across the entire country.

“Our members uphold a legacy of excellence, and we are proud of all their achievements,” said Col. Ray Hyland, commander of the 171st.

The winners of the awards include Chief Master Sgt. Jason Everetts, Master Sgt. Keith Boring, Master Sgt. Frederick Wolfe, and Tech. Sgt. Ashley Stainbrook.

Stainbrook and Everetts won within the air traffic control category, which focuses on the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air. Both Stainbrook and Everetts are drill status Guardsmen at the 258th. Stainbrook won within the specific category of Air Traffic Control Watch Supervisor of the Year, while Everetts, a civilian employee during the week at the 258th, won Air Traffic Control Civilian of the Year.

Air traffic control is a highly specialized, intensive job that requires years of training.

“Being an air traffic controller is very hard because it’s constantly progressing. It’s not something you can learn and forget. It’s something you must learn and build upon,” said Everetts.

“There is never a day that we are not training on something,” said Stainbrook. “We deal with FAA regulations and Air Force regulations. They review and update them based on trends and analysis, so it’s always evolving.”

Being an air traffic controller also means you need to be an effective communicator.

“It’s a lot of coordination. I communicate with the aircraft, within the tower, emergency services, and other entities. We coordinate with several air traffic control facilities,” said Everetts.

“We need to think very quickly. There are times when four or five different people are asking you for different things. You need to figure out the sequence of priorities by impact,” said Stainbrook.

Even though the career field is known for its difficulty, long hours, and hectic work schedules, both Everetts and Stainbrook love being air traffic controllers.

“I don’t feel like I’m going to work. I really enjoy what I do. I enjoy the challenge of seeing how the puzzle pieces fit together,” said Stainbrook.

“I’ve been an air traffic control for a long, long time—20 some years. I really enjoy what I’m doing, and it fits my personality. It’s a rewarding career field, and our success is a total team effort,” said Everetts.

The other winners at the 258th, Wolfe and Boring, won within the Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems category. Both Wolfe and Boring are drill status Guardsmen. Wolfe won within the specific category of Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, while Boring, a civilian employee during the week, won Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems Technician of the Year.

RAWS focuses on deploying important warning systems, ensuring the equipment used by air traffic controllers is operational, and much more.

“RAWS is a big career field. It’s a very long process to be qualified. There’s a vast amount of knowledge to retain,” said Wolfe.

The career field is multifaceted because once you know your equipment, you also have to know how to deploy your equipment, said Wolfe.

A former Apache helicopter mechanic, Boring, said he joined the career field because he wanted to be part of anything that had to do with air traffic control. Working on different equipment like radios, navigational aids, tactical air navigation and other instruments, allows Boring to use his prior mechanical knowledge towards a new skill set.

“It’s a career that allows you to think outside the box to solve a problem. We get to do a lot of different things. We are currently performing air traffic control, but we are training to become a Combat Airspace Operations Squadron where we will align better with the ACE (agile combat employment) concept,” said Boring.

While very different career fields, air traffic control and RAWS are closely associated, intertwined professions.

“Air traffic controllers and RAWS specialists are essential to the safety of our aircraft and our Guardsmen,” said Hyland.

Whether on the ground or in the air, Airmen of the 258th ATCS and 171st ARW continue to uphold a high-achieving standard with ongoing training and readiness efforts. The awards received serve as a reminder that they continue to perform with the core value of ‘excellence in all we do’ at the forefront of all their actions.