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Marine Controllers Keep Eyes Skyward

Compliments of:  Marine Aircraft Wing

The radar room and control tower here never shut down.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ralph F. Pyles III, an approach controller with the Air Traffic Control tower, watches as an aircraft touches down on a runway at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, Nov. 21, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Grace Waladkewics

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The air traffic controllers who oversee Cherry Point’s airspace and runway operations issue clearances and feed information to pilots, aircrews and ground crews. The controllers’ mission is to prevent collision of aircraft and ensure the smooth flow of traffic.

Cherry Point’s controllers supervise more than 5,000 square miles of airspace. Attention to detail, mission focus and teamwork are all imperative to the safety of Cherry Point service members and civilians in surrounding communities.

“Every day is a different scenario. Nothing is ever exactly the same,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Michael Van, an ATC specialist. “There are so many things the runway can be used for, so every day is something different. Even though I am a supervisor, I am still constantly learning new things and new ways to operate.”

Marines in the control tower and radar room fill several unique roles. Each crew member has a job to do, whether it is granting access, watching the radar from the ground, directing aircraft and vehicles on the runway or feeding information to pilots. All jobs are essential to daily mission accomplishment.

The controllers aim to keep the air and ground space safe and accident free. Ensuring safe operations can be exhausting so teamwork and proficiency are key factors, according to Van.

“Maintaining safety is everyone’s responsibility,” Van said. “We take breaks and switch on and off like pilot and co-pilot so we don’t get burned out.”

The controllers conduct simulations and exercises to test their understanding and proficiency in their assigned roles and to identify ways to improve.

“ATC works very closely with the pilots and weather,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher Chase, an ATC specialist. “Anything could happen out of the blue within minutes and it is the job of ATC to keep pilots informed and safe.”

Training and education give the ATC Marines an edge and help alleviate some of the stress of day-to-day operations, according to Chase.

“There is an extreme level of stress at times because if someone makes a mistake it affects others’ lives,” Chase said. “Once you become a qualified controller, completing the intense training, you must perform at the top of your game 100 percent of the time.”

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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