06/30/2017- NEW LONDON, N.C. --
The 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron of the North Carolina Air National Guard has been announced as the 2016 D. Ray Hardin Air Traffic Control Facility of the Year. The award is given for dedicated professionalism and exceeding superior standards and expectations; for the Airmen of the unit it is the culmination of years of hard work.
The 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron is one of three radar units in the Air National Guard whose mission is supporting C-130 Hercules operations while training air traffic controllers to deploy anywhere around the globe.
It’s the opposing competition that makes winning so gratifying, According to Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Plumley, 235th Air Traffic Control Watch Supervisor.
“Knowing how exceptional the other air traffic control squadrons in the Air National Guard are, is what makes receiving this honor so special,” said Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Plumley, 235th Air Traffic Control Watch Supervisor. “The teamwork of our unit and the many long hours our members put in daily attributed entirely to this award being bestowed upon us.”
In past years, Airmen of the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron needed to rely on other airports to know when aircraft were inbound-a handicap that made them ineligible for award nomination.
“Previously we didn’t have a radar, now we can have a visual of the aircraft before they even talk to the tower. We can see the targets out there. It’s much safer now, and we can fill the gap between Charlotte and Greensboro because our airspace fits right in between those airports,” said Plumley.
With the activation of the radar in 2016, the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron acquired 800 square miles of airspace from three Federal Aviation approach controls, constructed five airspace maps, provided air traffic control services to four county airports, directed movement of aircraft along seven civil airways and five tactical military routes, and even won the Earl F. Ward award, an international accolade for enhancing quality, safety, and efficiency of air traffic control.
The visual range of a normal human is usually about three to four miles. The radar works by allowing technicians to see beyond.
“It allows us to see out about 60 miles, and we’ve been allocated one thousand feet of airspace,” said Master Sgt. Jade Barnett, 235th Air Traffic Control, dual rated radar and tower controller.
For two years the radar and tower technicians working together, restored functionality to the radar which had been inoperable for over four decades. “It was difficult to get online, and for about twelve years, you had subject matter experts saying it would never run and be online. Then, with the right team, they were able to do it,” said Barnett.
Moving forward the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron intends to continue improving by bringing in more personnel with new perspectives and knowledge. As for next year, Tech Sgt. Plumley is optimistic the unit will find success again.
“All of our members are excited to be recipients of this honor and to have the privilege of saying we are second to none.” said Plumley.