27th SOSS: Eyes on the sky
link U.S. Air Force photo: Airman 1st Class Chip Slack
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clint Dykes, 27th Special Operations Support Squadron chief controller, scans the horizon for signs of incoming aerial assets Feb. 24 at Cannon Air Force Base. Dykes is dedicated to the training of his Airmen and furthering the success of the members of the 27th SOSS.
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
A daily brief was given, equipment was gathered and the men and women of the 27th Special Operations Support Squadron air traffic control climbed the stairs toward another day of being a second set of eyes for Cannon’s aerial assets. As the New Mexican sky showed the first glorious signs of daybreak, the daily schedule was reviewed and planned out, and almost immediately, the chatter of the radio signaled the start of a new day.
Having a 360-degree view of the vast expanse that is Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, the Air Commandos that man the tower watch on a trained edge for the possible signs of error, and anticipate ways to mitigate them.
The 27th SOSS has ensured that 2014 was the safest year in aviation, garnering the titles of Air Force Air Traffic Control manager of the year for Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force Air Traffic Controller of the Air Force as a whole.
“A day as an air traffic controller is very humbling,” said Master Sgt. Clint Dykes, 27th SOSS chief controller. “We love our job and we take it very seriously due to the importance of accuracy. The controllers strive toward excellence in all that they do, both locally and within the community; we are all about Team Cannon and helping the air warriors stay proficient.”
Air traffic controllers at Cannon safely execute roughly 31,000 operations annually, and have 34 controllers who support 12 types of aerial assets and nine diverse flying squadrons.
While air traffic control is a broad job title, it is split into two distinct sections. There is the tower, which is incredibly fast-paced as these Air Commandos are responsible for a much smaller airspace; and then there is Radar Approach Control. RAPCON puts Airmen in a position where they are looking at the airspace in a much bigger picture that goes beyond the Cannon airfield.
Last year was big for Cannon’s Air Commandos. The landscape of the base has evolved in order to create an environment for Airmen and their families to thrive, and men and women of Team Cannon have watched as $2.1 Billion in construction projects have changed the face of Cannon. While these highly-anticipated projects were welcomed by all, they created an added challenge for the Airmen both in the tower and the RAPCON.
“We had to flex in order to accommodate all of the changes Cannon was enduring,” said Dykes. “Certain airspaces and runways had to be reassessed to simultaneously accomplish the mission and aid the various construction projects.”
“Supporting nine different squadrons and 12 airframes can get a little hectic at times, with Air Commandos coming in and doing their tactical approaches, which keeps them sharp and ready to go down range,” he continued. “At the end of the day, we have a job to do just like everyone else; we are just trying to do our part by ensuring the safety of our Air Commandos and the accomplishment of both the ATC mission, and overall mission here at Cannon.”