51st OSS wins ROKAF air traffic control competition

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Aubree Owens
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Earlier this year, a U.S. Air Force air traffic control operator from the 51st Operations Support Squadron won a Republic of Korea Air Force hosted ATC event and was invited back to demonstrate his abilities of managing aircraft movement dynamically in a new location through virtual simulations at the ROKAF Education and Training Command, Jinju, Republic of Korea, Oct. 12-13, 2023.

In July 2023, the ROKAF invited members of the U.S. Department of Defense to compete in their annual ATC competition. The competition was comprised of 160 members from ROK Armed Forces, USAF and U.S. Army stationed within the peninsula.

“This was the first ever combined ATC competition that we’ve done,” said USAF Lt. Col. Chandra Fleming, 51st OSS commander.

Only four ATC operators from Osan participated in ROKAF’s annual competition. For most of them, this was their first opportunity to compare and exchange tactics with members from the ROK.

“The ATC competition was nice to get to know the ROK controllers and learn from their techniques and training,” said USAF Staff Sgt. Javier Gonzalez, 51st OSS radar approach control air traffic watch supervisor. “We came in with very little knowledge of what was going to happen, which made it challenging. The simulation was a very good test of our situation awareness which is vital in our career field.”

When Gonzalez was announced as the winner, he was invited back to demonstrate his skills to ROKAF leadership, in accompany of his leadership from the 51st OSS. The intent was for ROKAF to record the similarities and differences between their techniques of aircraft movement with the USAF.

“Our controllers integrate with many nearby ROK bases in a dynamic airspace,” said Fleming. “So, to be able to coordinate with the ROKAF controllers to learn their best practices, techniques and procedures helps us better integrate with them and also allows us to improve friendships and international relations.”

The 51st OSS is the most forward-deployed, permanently assigned operations squadron supporting operational flying units and is responsible for training, flight operations, intelligence, operational plans, airfield management and weather forecasting.

“For a member of our squadron to win such a large competition, it demonstrates the stellar training program we have at Osan and high caliber controllers that we have on our team,” said Fleming.

The ROKAF started the ATC competition in 1985 and have continued the competition annually for the past 38 years to better their training program and controllers’ capabilities.

“We thought this year was a great success,” said ROKAF Capt. Minsoo Kim, ATC operator. “By having the U.S. involved we were able to learn from their American controllers and better our training program. We look forward to incorporating them into our annual competition.”