Airfield operations flight maintains safety from all angles

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Colleen Anthony
  • 62d Airlift Wing

 In 2014, the radar airfield and weather systems (RAWS) career field underwent a transition from communication squadrons to operation support squadrons throughout the Air Force. At the 62d Airlift Wing, RAWS is now seamlessly integrated into the 62d Operations Support Squadron's airfield operations flight. A decade after this shift, the impact on flight operations at McChord is unmistakable.

"I've been in for 14 years now, and this Air Operations Flight is one of the most cohesive units I've ever been a part of," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Defaytte, NCO in charge of Airfield Management Operations. "The working relationship between our tower partners and the RAWS team is pretty much seamless."

The flight comprises three units: air traffic control (ATC), airfield management, and RAWS, each playing a crucial role in the success of the 62d AW's mission.

"We get the aircraft from the ramps to airborne; we deliver safety alerts and relay relevant information that the pilots are seeing," explained Airman 1st Class Tyler Oromonde, an ATC specialist. "We operate 24/7, 365 days a year, regardless of rain, sleet or shine."

ATC focuses on ensuring the safe flow of air traffic, while RAWS manages air traffic systems, warning radar systems, navigational aids and weather equipment radios. Airfield management conducts airfield inspections, coordinates maintenance and ensures aircraft can take off or land at a moment's notice. Together, they balance the mission's weight within the airfield operations flight.

The transition for RAWS to OSS streamlined processes. According to feedback, obtaining funding became easier as they aligned within the same squadron they worked most closely with.

"Most communication units don't know, for example, what an instrument landing system is. When we switched to OSS, we became a part of the same squadron as those we were working with most," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Phelps, RAWS supervisor.

The collaborative efforts between ATC, airfield management and RAWS have not only streamlined operations, but also contributed to the overall success of the 62d AW's mission. As the 10-year milestone since the transition is recognized, it is evident this strategic shift has not only improved communication and coordination, but has also facilitated smoother processes, ensuring   mission readiness of the wing with each successful sortie.