Mission Control keeps it all on track
By Senior Airman Nick Przybyciel, 446th Airlift Wing & 62nd AW
/ Published March 01, 2006
MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Combat airlift can be a fickle beast, to say the least. Providing airlift support for two combat regions, distributing relief aid to various countries of the world, and maintaining training all require a certain amount of flexibility.
Keeping tabs on the missions assigned to 446th Airlift Wing aircrews can be an arduous job, but somebody has to do it. The responsibilities of tracking and monitoring the wing’s four flying squadrons, providing essential paperwork to the aircrews, notifying aircrews of mission changes and manning the telephones at the wing’s only 24-hour operations center, falls on the shoulders of people at the 446th Operations Support Flights’ mission control.
“Taking care of the aircrews – that’s our main priority,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Jimenez, one of four air reserve technicians at mission control.
At times the job can be extremely difficult. For instance, tracking down an aircrew member at a remote location on a moment’s notice can be a challenging task, he said.
“When we have to alert the aircrew, there’s a certain amount of time we have. It throws it all off when you can’t get a hold of someone,” Sergeant Jimenez said.
Even in the most pressing of circumstances, Sergeant Jimenez and his fellow Airmen at mission control have the tools to help get the job done. The Global Deploy Support System provides them the ability to print airfield information as part of the package they provide to aircrews departing McChord. It also is used to track crews who are out in the system.
On an average day, mission control tracks 12 aircrews. “Changes occur very randomly on an as-needed basis for anything from cargo, destinations, maintenance and weather,” said Master Sgt. Laura Elliott. “Constant communication is required on a daily basis with the command post and current operations to coordinate changes.”
Another software program they often use is the Individual Mobility Tracker. The IMT provides mission control operators with packages that include flight plans, field information and notice to Airmen documents for aircrews that are at stage locations. If a staged aircrew’s mission changes, mission control can find all of the pertinent information to pass on to them by using the IMT software.
Their job isn’t limited to supporting just aircrews. Whenever an emergency happens, mission control has a variety of responsibilities. From running emergency action checklists in the case of a disaster, to contacting the necessary people when an Airman’s family member dies, handling emergencies can be one of the most difficult parts of the job.
“When someone is at tech school and you can’t get a hold of them (when) there’s been a death in the family, it can be difficult,” Sergeant Jimenez said.
When such a situation occurs, they work hand-in-hand with the Red Cross. This has happened a few times during the 18 months Sergeant Jimenez spent on orders before becoming an ART, and it is the hardest part of the job, he said.
While difficult at times, the work performed at mission control is crucial to making the 446th AW an integral part of the total force.