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News | Oct. 21, 2021

3rd Wing Spotlight — Airman excels in air traffic control

By Senior Airman Jordan Smith 673 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

It doesn’t take rank to make a difference. A 3rd Operations Support Squadron Airman is making an impact while contributing to the mission.

The 3rd OSS mission is to support and execute air operations for the 3rd Wing, the Alaska North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, and combatant commanders. U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ean Holt, a 3rd OSS air traffic controller apprentice, is making sure he’s contributing to that mission.

Holt completed his 72 technical-training days at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, before arriving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, where he will continue his training to become a certified air traffic controller. 

“I’m still in training, so my contribution is making sure we have manning and completing my training — making sure I know all the rules, all the complexities of the air space for when I do get my certifications,” Holt said. “[There’s a huge] amount of information they need you to not just memorize, but understand and apply -- anybody can go through and memorize the rules, but actually being able to apply it is vital.”

Holt completed five of eight air traffic-control training blocks in 78 of the 145 allotted days with a 95.4% test average. 

But Holt is contributing more to the community and to JBER than just manning and training. He partnered with the Anchorage Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team and represented the JBER air traffic control tower and U.S. Air Force at the Alaska Aviation Museum STEM community outreach program, volunteered to be an OSS lead Operational Security coordinator, and has been working with the 3rd Wing’s Agile Combat Employment team to get 3D-printed model aircraft for static board training. 

“The Alaska Aviation Museum’s STEM community outreach program is important because it keeps people’s confidence in aviation strong,” Holt said. “A lot of people don’t hear about the thousands of flights every day that happen safely; they hear about the bad ones. It just helps people have more confidence that when they get on an airplane, they feel they’re going to get to wherever they’re going safely.”

Holt emphasized that educating the community and our partners on air traffic control is also important when it comes to operational security. As an OSS lead OPSEC coordinator, Holt helped ensure everyone in ATC is updated on their OPSEC training to ensure data safety along with operational safety. 

“Operational security is a very important thing as far as safety, it goes hand-in-hand with security,” Holt said. “Just making sure that everyone in ATC is up to date on their training, so any information that we have to keep controlled stays within where it needs to be. You can’t write a regulation that covers 100 percent of every scenario, so you have to ensure people understand the meaning behind the rules so they can be in that gray area safely.”

ATC’s static board training is the first step in on-the-job training, consisting of a map of the airfield and an object to represent approaching aircraft. The training is used to aid with learning phraseology, call signs, and different scenarios that air traffic controllers might experience. A1C Holt is working with JBER’s Arctic Spark Lab to 3D-print model aircraft that frequently fly through the JBER air space, to enhance the training experience.

Holt is on the path to quickly become an ATC trainer himself once he completes his on-the-job training and earns his certification in air traffic control.

“I look forward to [Airman 1st Class] Holt continuing to speed ahead with his training,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Marking, a 3rd OSS ATC complex watch supervisor. “He’s caught on quickly to ATC, and that stems from his ability to quickly absorb the required knowledge and turn it into application. I see him quickly becoming a trainer and paying back the time that was spent making him a valuable member of the team to our next batch of trainees. I’m hopeful that he will impress his positive attitude onward to the teammates that come after him, and I have no doubt that he’ll fairly quickly make a great leader in this career field.”

Each air space is unique and requires different amounts of training, depending on aircraft assigned to the installation, geographical layout and terrain, and adjacent air field coordination. JBER’s ATC training is 10 to 12 months.

“Since I’m still in training, as soon as I get trained I’ll be another asset to the Air Force and make sure the safety of the air crews is upheld,” Holt said. “A little bit down the line, I’ll be a trainer, and I’ll make sure that the next wave of trainees get trained properly and they follow things safely.”