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235th ATCS Airman named ANG Air Traffic Controller of the Year

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Burkhalter, Tower Watch Supervisor for the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron, watches the skies for incoming aircraft as part of daily operations at Stanly County Airport, New London, N.C., Feb. 10, 2016. Burkhalter, who was recently selected as 2015 Air Traffic Controller of the Year, provides air traffic control services for all civilian and military aircraft at the Stanly County Airport. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex McCorkle/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Burkhalter, Tower Watch Supervisor for the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron, watches the skies for incoming aircraft as part of daily operations at Stanly County Airport, New London, N.C., Feb. 10, 2016. Burkhalter, who was recently selected as 2015 Air Traffic Controller of the Year, provides air traffic control services for all civilian and military aircraft at the Stanly County Airport. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex McCorkle/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Burkhalter, Tower Watch Supervisor for the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron, operates an Enhanced Terminal Voice Switch (ETVS) allowing quick access to pre-programed radio frequencies and telephone lines during daily operations, Feb 10, 2016. Burkhalter is able to monitor all frequencies and positions at the same time making his response quicker and more efficient in case of a miscommunication. Burkhalter, who was recently selected as 2015 Air Traffic Controller of the Year, provides air traffic control services for all civilian and military aircraft at Stanly County Airport, in New London, N.C. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex McCorkle/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Burkhalter, Tower Watch Supervisor for the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron, operates an Enhanced Terminal Voice Switch (ETVS) allowing quick access to pre-programed radio frequencies and telephone lines during daily operations, Feb 10, 2016. Burkhalter is able to monitor all frequencies and positions at the same time making his response quicker and more efficient in case of a miscommunication. Burkhalter, who was recently selected as 2015 Air Traffic Controller of the Year, provides air traffic control services for all civilian and military aircraft at Stanly County Airport, in New London, N.C. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex McCorkle/Released)

NEW LONDON, N.C. -- When Staff Sgt. Jacob A. Burkhalter responded to an impromptu meeting called by his commander, Maj. Jeffrey Kipp, 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron, he was humbly surprised when the commander announced that he had been selected as Air Traffic Controller of the Year by the National Guard Bureau.

"Jake is the standard we strive for," said Kipp as he told Burkhalter about his win.

Burkhalter was selected number one for this prestigious award out of 395 possible candidates.  This award is given to a controller whose primary duty is operating as an air traffic controller in an ATC facility.  Individuals selected for this award must have contributed greatly to the facility's success through their services, ideas, developments and accomplishments.

Burkhalter is a dynamic leader and facility supervisor who oversees operations from the control tower located at the Stanly County Airport, New London, N.C. During 2015, he was personally responsible for many great achievements, which culminated in his selection as 145th Airlift Wing Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter.

As an air traffic controller for the NCANG, Burkhalter plays a key role in ensuring safety is not compromised both in the air and on the ground. Being in charge of an airfield's takeoffs and landings can often involve making real-time decisions that have the potential to effect life or death.  In this job, there is no room for error.

Stanly County Airport supports not only military air traffic but civilian aircraft as well. They provide support for the Pressley Aviation flight school located at the airport, along with other civilian aircraft based there and transitioning through.

Burkhalter specifically contributed to critical lifesaving efforts when he redirected air traffic in and around the local airspace over Albemarle and New London, N.C.  His actions provided direct access to Stanly Regional Hospital for a medivac helicopter that was airlifting a critical patient.

"I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment to be in a position where I can not only support military operations but also have an opportunity to help out the community, and maybe even help save a life," said Burkhalter.

Many out of the ordinary operational training events happen here at Stanly. Military branches from around the world utilize this drop zone to conduct free fall and fast rope operations using various airframes to include US Army UH-60 Blackhawk, Marine CV-22 Osprey helicopters and USAF C-130 Hercules aircraft just to name a few.

"Stanly County is a great place for Special Operations Groups to come and train in their "out of the box" way of doing business that keeps our great country safe. We support over 2,000 airdrops annually and countless tactical approaches while directing aircrew from the control tower," Burkhalter stated.

"Being an Air Traffic Controller can be challenging, but it has its advantages as well. I've really enjoyed the past six years working in this tower; it is my way of life," said Burkhalter.