BH 16-2: First-hand experience leads to second nature response

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

During Exercise Beverly Herd 16-2 the airfield management and radar approach control are vital to making sure everything from the airspace to the airfield is clear of obstacles to conduct wartime operations.

Both sections share the same goal – provide a location for jets to launch in support of operations safely and expeditiously.

Radar approach control coordinates with 11 different adjacent Korean military and civilian air traffic control facilities for all aircraft coming into, out of or through Osan airspace.

“The main mission of this wing is the air power we can provide to the fight if needed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gibson, 51st Operations Support Squadron chief controller for radar approach control. “The role of the air traffic controller is to allow those aircraft to get to where they’re going safely, and then also to be able to recover them in an expeditious manner.”

“Through both lateral and vertical separation methods we just ensure that all aircraft transition quickly and safely through the airspace or to the airfield here,” Gibson added. “Most of the ops side of the house, our job day in and day out is to train for a wartime environment.”

“Realistically an exercise is kind of our opportunity to demonstrate that we know what we’re doing and can do,” he said. “Especially with a wartime-type scenario, aircraft may come back under distress and air traffic controllers are one of the first lines of communication to coordinate emergency recovery.”

While RAPCON assesses the airspace, AMOPS conducts routine checks to ensure pilots have a safe place to launch and land.

After simulated missile or ground attacks the AMOPS teams up with the explosive ordnance flight and conducts a sweep of the 1,100 acre airfield for any UXOs, craters, or any other damage or compromises that could pose risk to pilots or installation security. Using quick-reaction checklists, they report any findings to emergency operations agencies.

Those checks are in addition to daily checks of airfield equipment. Real world airfield management operations don’t stop during an exercise; striking the right balance is important. According to Morales, understanding how to manage exercise expectations that could save lives, and at the same time respond to real world incidents that supersede exercise injects, is important.

“A lot of people know that it may be one week but that’s one week where we can iron out our flaws and learn what we’ve failed to do,” Morales said. “We can improve that way in the next exercise, or God forbid something really does happen; it’s going to save us.”