297th ATCS assists in bilateral missions in western Pacific

An Airman from the 297th Air Traffic Control Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard sits atop the Meteorological Shelter Navigation Model 7 (MSN-7), a mobile tower system, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, March 22, 2017. Courtesy file photo

297th Air Traffic Control Squadron

The Hawaii Air National Guard’s 297th Air Traffic Control Squadron (ATCS) was a critical asset to bilateral missions with the Republic of Korea Air Force and Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, by assisting U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers to fly out of Guam. Their operations demonstrated the U.S. commitment to allies against the growing threat from North Korea’s ballistic missile program.

The Airmen of the 297th, Tech. Sgt. Marvin Isidro, Tech. Sgt. Keoni Garcia, airfield systems technicians; Tech. Sgt. Kelton Luat, an air traffic controller, and Senior Airman Sheri Tomita, a power pro maintainer, were responsible for the conduction and training of critical air traffic control operations during their deployment in Guam.

The four Airmen deployed with the MSN-7, while Andersen’s primary air traffic control tower was undergoing repairs. As the only unit trained to operate this unique asset in the Pacific, the Airmen’s unique skillset and teamwork demonstrated their ability to impact a highly strategic base in the Pacific.

Arriving at Anderson AFB, the team was given 18 days to have the MSN-7 fully operational. This required the Airmen to perform a job meant for a 20-man team, but the Airmen excelled and were able to turn the fixed tower operations over to the mobile tower.

“We want people to understand we are here to support air traffic control duties whenever and wherever necessary,” said Capt. Irving B. Bicoy II, the 297th ATCS commander.

A heritage of excellence runs in the squadron. The 297th was the first Air National Guard unit to ever successfully deploy Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems overseas in 1988, and have participated in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Wake Phoenix. More recently, the unit was essential to the testing of the MSN-7, while supporting exercise Barking Sands 2015.

“Our unit boasts the capability of providing air traffic control functions, anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice,” Luat said.

Without the expertise of the 297th, it would not have been possible to continue the B-1B operations that represent commitment to our allies and stability in the region.

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