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Back to the future Keesler prepares to train Iraqi air traffic controllers

From left, Airmen Basic Scarlett Worriax, Laaron Odom II and Kirk Cash, 334th TRS air traffic control students, get a lesson in aircraft sequencing from Sergeant Lince using a static lab in Cody Hall.   A similar setup will be used to train air traffic control students in Iraq.  (U. S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

From left, Airmen Basic Scarlett Worriax, Laaron Odom II and Kirk Cash, 334th TRS air traffic control students, get a lesson in aircraft sequencing from Sergeant Lince using a static lab in Cody Hall. A similar setup will be used to train air traffic control students in Iraq. (U. S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Trainers in the 334th Training Squadron are stepping back in time to train Iraq's future air traffic controllers. 

Air traffic control students at Keesler benefit from sophisticated simulators that bring cutting-edge realism to their training. But with $800,000 price tags, those teaching aids won't be available in Iraq anytime soon. 

Stepping back in time 

"In a sense, we're going back to the future in the way that we'll be initially training Iraq's air traffic controllers," said Master Sgt. Bill Lince, who's developing the training. "In Iraq, due to logistics and electric power constraints, we'll do much of the training using a static lab -- wooden stands with plastic aircraft and an airfield outline painted on a table." 

Air traffic control training has been conducted at Keesler since the late 1950s. When Sergeant Lince trained here in 1988, a static lab was used for the bulk of his training. 

The same method was used until the first simulators came on line in 1999. 

Building foundation 

By way of 2nd Air Force and the 81st Training Group, the 334th TRS was tasked to develop a suitable air traffic control lesson plan to support the Coalition Air Force Transition Team. The CAFTT's main focus is to provide a framework for development of the Iraqi Air Force's structure and training programs. 

Basic military training has been initiated and technical instruction has begun in several fields. 

For air traffic control students, the tower course is scheduled to begin in July and the radar course in September. Classes will be conducted at a small airfield near Baghdad.
Master Sgt. Mike Polley, former supervisor of the air traffic control fundamentals course, has been deployed to Iraq since January to assist in revising the on-the-job training that Iraqi air traffic controllers will receive. He also serves as the airfield's deputy chief controller until he returns to Keesler in June. 

Sergeant Lince, who deploys for the first time in October, has spent the last nine years in Keesler's training arena except for a one-year remote assignment to Osan Air Base, Korea. Keesler's former air traffic control tower course supervisor will be teaching and managing air traffic control tower training in Iraq, as well as assisting and advising the CAFFT on training issues. 

"Since the world of air traffic control is constantly changing, we always have a fresh new lesson plan handy," Sergeant Lince pointed out. 

The lesson plan Sergeant Lince used as a framework for the Iraqi training package was originally developed by three Keesler instructors, Master Sgt. Lori Derr, Tech. Sgt. Aaron Taylor and civilian Dan Seevers. Sergeant Taylor is now at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. 

"I've molded and fleshed out that lesson plan into a format that provides students passing through the course with all the tools necessary to go to their base and be successful in on-the-job training," Sergeant Lince explained. "Technical training for air traffic control is just the 'tip of the iceberg.' Controllers have to be in upgrade training for six months to a year or more before they can finally work traffic on their own. 

"The students from this course should provide trainers and facility managers like Sergeant Polley the raw materials they need to build a backbone for Iraq's air traffic control career field," he continued. "Also, some of the early graduates may be looked upon to become instructors in that same course so that eventually it will be a self-sustaining entity where Iraqis will teach Iraqis."