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Air Traffic Control - 1C1X1

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Senior Airman Salamasina Nickel gives radio clearance for traffic crossing the taxiway here April 28.  Airman Nickel is an air traffic controller deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown)

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Mission 

Every day, hundreds of military airplanes and helicopters take off and land all over the world. It is the job of air traffic controllers to monitor these aircraft in order to prevent accidents. Air traffic controllers, or ATCs, direct the movement of aircraft into and out of military airfields all over the world and track aircraft by radar and give voice instructions by radio.

ATCs must also know learn how to operate radio equipment to relay flight and landing instructions, weather reports and safety information to pilots.  ATCs are also responsible for plotting aircraft positions on radar equipment, as well as computing aircraft speed, direction and altitude. 

All ATCs must earn and maintain a Federal Aviation Administration ATC Specialist Certificate. 

ATCs can deploy to or be stationed anywhere in the world in support of airfield or air base operations. However, being an ATC is not for everyone. Due to the hectic nature of the job, it can be overwhelming at times and Air Traffic Control, whether military or civilian, is also commonly listed among the top five most stressful jobs. 

Qualifications

Those interested in joining the air traffic control career field must meet certain eligibility criteria. A candidate must be a high school graduate or equivalent, earn a general score of at least 55 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test and be able to obtain a Secret security clearance. Also, because of the job's hectic nature, applicants should possess a level head and be able to work well under stress.

Training

After basic training, Airmen assigned to be ATCs will attend a 72-day Air Traffic Control operator course at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., where they will learn ATC principles and procedures. These include: flight characteristics of aircraft, International Civil Aviation Organization and United States federal and military air directives, the use of aeronautical charts, maps, and publications and the interpretation, use, and limitations of ATC radar, communications systems and navigational aids.

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