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Marine Air Control Squadron 4 air traffic controllers support Cobra Gold 2011

By Lance Cpl. Miranda Blackburn | | February 13, 2011

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni-based air traffic controllers are helping to keep U.S. and Thai aircraft flying safely.

Detatchment B, Marine Air Control Squadron 4, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Iwakuni, Japan, is currently deployed to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in support of Cobra Gold 2011.

Cobra Gold 2011 is a regularly scheduled joint and combined exercise in the continuing series of U.S.-Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace by strengthening the bonds between the seven participating nations: Thailand, Republic of Singapore, Japan, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, and the U.S. The multi-national includes a staff exercise, field training exercise events and humanitarian civic assistance programs.

While deployed to Thailand, the detachment's purpose is to provide air surveillance and control aircraft and surface-to-air weapons for antiair warfare, continuous all-weather radar and non-radar air traffic control service, and air space management.

"We work with the Thai to safely communicate with aircraft from Iwakuni, Okinawa, and Thailand," said Capt. Dominic Kimzey, the detatchment commander.

The relationship the detachment has with Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st MAW, provides them with the ability to assist in exercises such as Cobra Gold, because while there are air traffic controllers attached to the station in Iwakuni, Detachment B is the deployable side of air traffic control.

The detachment has five sections that contribute to air traffic control services that keep aircraft in the air.

The operations section covers everything required to conduct day-to-day operations and training exercises.

The radar shop ensures radars are up and running.

"When we're in garrison, we rotate operations with the station and do a lot of preventative maintenance," said Sgt. Antonio Villalobos, an air traffic control radar technician. "But when we're deployed is really the only time we get to see all of of our gear fully operational."

Villalobos added that, while deployed, the radar technicians get more hands-on experience with the equipment than they would in Iwakuni.

The detachment also has a communications section that keeps all assets ready for use so air traffic controllers have the ability to communicate with aircraft and other agencies, a navigation section that puts out distance signals which allows aircraft to navigate to and from fields, and a utilities shop that keeps up equipment such as generators and air conditioners.

With only about 60 Marines in the detatchment, every Marine efforts are important to make sure the mission is accomplished, said Lance Cpl. Wade Armstong, an aviation supply specialist.

“We rely on each other a lot,” said Armstong. “If one shop can't do their job, none of us can."

The detachment also provides weather center support to Korat and all other locations with aircraft while deployed to Thailand.

The weather center provides aircraft with meteorological and oceanographic conditions that may be encountered and the impact on military operations during the exercise.

"A lot of people think our job consists of going on the Internet and looking at weather.com to give a weather forecast," said Chief Warrant Officer Duane Gumbs, the detachment's METOC officer. "But there's a lot more to it than that. A pilot could ask, 'What are the winds going to be like at 1,500 feet at 1900?' and we have to be able to answer those questions."

Gumbs also added it's important that Detachment B Marines have the chance to be deployed here to show they are capable of operating in an expeditionary environment and also to work with other agencies with whome they wouldn't normally interact.

For more information about Cobra Gold 2011, visit www.marines.mil/cobragold2011 or www.facebook.com/exercisecobragold.

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