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270th ATCS makes ANG history during Patriot North exercise

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from the 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard, performs a low pass over a mobile air traffic control tower at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 14, 2021. PATRIOT 21 is a training exercise designed for civilian emergency management and responders to work with military entities to prepare for disasters.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from the 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard, performs a low pass over a mobile air traffic control tower at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 14, 2021. PATRIOT 21 is a training exercise designed for civilian emergency management and responders to work with military entities to prepare for disasters.

FORT MCCOY, Wis. – Airmen from the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, operated a mobile air traffic control unit during Patriot North 21 at Ft McCoy in June.

Patriot 21 is a training exercise for civilian emergency management and responders to work with the military on disaster response. In this scenario, 59 agencies demonstrated their ability to respond after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Midwest.

The Airmen of the 270th ATCS controlled 133 aircraft that delivered supplies, provided medevacs for casualties, controlled search and rescue efforts, and enabled intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations under instrument flight rules. IFR conditions are defined when visibility is lower than three miles and/or the sky ceiling is less than 1,000 feet.

The 270th ATCS achieved several milestones during this exercise. The squadron deployed the Deployable Instrument Landing System, the Mobile Tactical Air Navigation System, Tower and a new Agile Combat Employment (ACE) Concept Radar package known as Q-Radar. It was the first time in Air National Guard history a radar air traffic controller communicated with live aircraft during annual training, proving the IFR capabilities during domestic operations. 

Another milestone achieved using the ACE concept was the Landing Zone Safety Officer package. LZSO operations have become highly sought after by the flying community training for a different type of warfighting. LZSO-qualified Airmen from the 243rd ATCS, Wyoming Air National Guard, trained 11 Airmen to establish and control a LZSO during the exercise. This led to a short field landing on a landing strip by a C-17 Globemaster.

This was the first time the 270th ATCS established a controlled airport from start to finish. The 270th Airmen assumed a handoff from the North Carolina National Guard's tactical air control party specialist while using all their mobile equipment. They ensured a legal landing zone was established. Radar handled aircraft outside five miles, then switched them to tower frequencies to be directed to the correct landing areas. On departure, the tower cleared the aircraft, controlling them for five miles away and then shipping them to radar until they reached another controller's airspace. 

At the end of the exercise, the airfield returned to an uncontrolled landing strip. 

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