Staff Sgt. Todd L. Pouliot
Task Force Falcon PAO NCOIC
Soldiers with an air traffic control company from Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, earned five Army Aviation Association of America awards from their performance during the recent deployment to eastern Afghanistan.
The awards, which were presented Jan. 26 at Fort Rucker, Ala., included Air Traffic Control Unit of the Year (F Company (ATC), TF Knighthawk), ATC Facility of the Year (Ground Control Approach Team), ATC Manager of the Year (Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin A. Grissett) and ATC Controllers of the Year (Staff Sgt. Antonio Bustion Jr. and Spc. Taylor D. Wilds).
While deployed to Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar Province, the company was responsible for planning and implementing procedures to enhance safety and expand aviation capabilities.
“The unit contributed greatly to the safety and efficiency of tactical air traffic control in Regional Command – East, Afghanistan throughout their yearlong deployment during periods of high aircraft density and emergency situation by implementing innovative usage of available equipment and assets while expanding the capabilities of future wartime (air traffic service) providers,” said 1st Sgt. William Haddon, F Company (ATC) first sergeant.
“The unit provided safe and orderly control of over 89,000 unmanned aircraft systems, fixed and rotary wing, civilian and coalition military and civilian aircraft,” Haddon said.
The company’s GCA Team provided radar capability to assist pilots who may have lost visibility due to adverse weather in the vicinity of FOB Shank. With the use of radar, the team provides instructions to pilots so they can land safely.
“Shank GCA collectively facilitated two inadvertent instrument meteorological condition recoveries, possibly saving the lives of many Soldiers, and have controlled over 500 Precision Approach Radar approaches during visual meteorological conditions,” Haddon said.
Haddon said that Grissett was named Manager of the Year for his instrumental role in the expansion of air traffic control and services at FOB Shank.
“His tireless efforts to improve the safety and efficiency of air traffic control at FOB Shank are directly responsible for establishing the newest aerial port of embarkation and aerial port of debarkation for military and civilian personnel and equipment movement into and out of RC – East theater of operations,” he said.
“His demonstrated determination and motivation coupled with an unprecedented drive to succeed in the unit’s missions to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of air traffic control provided in Afghanistan,” Haddon added.
Bustion served as a forward deployed air traffic control facility chief and received one of two Controller of the Year Awards.
“Bustion quickly realized that additional air traffic service and control measures were greatly needed to make the airspace in and around FOB Shank safer and more expeditious,” said Warrant Officer Kindrick Everett, a platoon leader with F Company (ATC). “As a result, he put together a plan within one day of being in country. He developed a comprehensive training program that enhanced the knowledge of 10 ground control approach operators.”
Wilds, another ATC shift leader, who won Controller of the Year, was the primary trainer for six junior Soldiers who had no previous air-traffic-control experience.
“Wilds displays a first-rate work ethic, unwavering dedication to duty and tremendous knowledge in air traffic control,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnathon Braun, a platoon leader with F Company (ATC). “He ensured all Soldiers were competent in both air traffic and airspace matters. His shifts safely controlled over 50,000 fixed wing, rotary wing and unmanned aircraft systems airframes that included joint and multinational military and civilian operations.”
Soldiers of F Company (ATC) have begun receiving their equipment from Afghanistan, inspecting them in preparation for future deployments.
As new personnel arrive to replace those who are leaving, sharing operational experience and training will prove essential to sustaining the unit’s capabilities. In garrison, these Soldiers will develop their proficiency by working in three areas: flight following, ground control approach and tower operations.