US Army, August 13, 2015 - NEW LONDON, N.C. by Sgt Brian Godette – The air traffic control tower received the transmission. The choppers are inbound, and can be seen hovering overhead in the distance.
Air traffic controllers guided the “birds” in safely at the Stanly County Airport, as they tactically flew in, unleashing a barrage of Soldiers rappelling from its belly.
North Carolina Army National Guard aviators and artillery, North Carolina Air Guardsmen, South Carolina Army Guard aviators, Alabama Army Guard aviators, active-duty Airmen and Soldiers conducted joint operations during the Carolina Thunder 2015 aviation training exercise here Aug. 1, 2015.
The air assault operations, interdiction attacks, and tactical aerial egress and regress movements performed at the airport were part of a larger series of multi-force, multi-state, multi-component training, going on throughout the state.
Nevertheless, the intimate public airport within the Charlotte region, is operated with the assistance from the North Carolina Air Guard, provided a unique training opportunity for the aviators and Soldiers, many of which were cavalry, paratroopers and Special Forces personnel.
“What this airport does is prepare us for any situation,” said Tech Sgt. Jacqueline Plumley, air traffic control technician assigned to the 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron, 145th Air Wing. “Here we get civilian pilots from different states, mixed with military, and it prepares us for any unusual situation that might happen.”
In conjunction with the military aircraft performing their tactical exercises, civilian aircraft were taking off and landing, adding to the maneuvering tasks of the pilots, and especially the air traffic controllers.
“In Iraq, we worked with a lot of foreign pilots and would run into a lot of different challenges, similar to what we would see here,” Plumley said.
The control tower provided a bird’s eye view of the action happening on and around the airfield. Special Forces Soldiers rappelled from the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, assigned to the North Carolina National Guard and South Carolina National Guard, while CH-47 Chinook helicopters provided by the Alabama National Guard unloaded paratroopers and cavalry Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
“With the assault strip it’s really good training, because most runways are bigger than this,” said Plumley.
As the Soldiers seized tactical positions on the ground, and went through several combat training scenarios [room clearing, zone security, medical triage], the interoperability between all the forces was highlighted.
“Everything went so smooth! From observation of the operation, everything seemed to go like clockwork,” said Bryce Raybon, the chief controller at the Stanly County Airport control tower.
Raybon, a Department of Defense civilian employee, added to the overall interoperability aspect by supervising the Airmen in the traffic control tower.
“Our job for this mission was traffic advisory, letting everyone know where everyone else is, getting visual contact, and separating the military aircrafts from the civilian aircrafts we had coming in and out,” said Raybon.
Carolina Thunder 2015 continued after the “birds” retrieved the Soldiers from the Stanly County Airport and continued the training exercise displaying the joint capabilities of the guard’s aviation community.