MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 610th Air Control Flight won three Pacific Air Forces and two Headquarters Air Force-level awards at Misawa Air Base, Japan, in 2019.
The Air Force-level awards include “Ground-Based Battle Management Command and Control Crew” and “Air Battle Manager of the Year.” Although the 610th ACF is smaller than other command and control units, through their rapid communication and high-levels of competency, they dominated all other C2 crews.
“It is a great honor to win these awards, especially considering we compete against units with three times our manpower,” said Tech. Sgt. Steven Kalkofen, the 610th ACF assistant superintendent.
This flight is one of only two tactical C2 units in Japan, ensuring the F-16 Fighting Falcons’ training remains safe because they often have to de-conflict airspace with U.S. Navy F-18 Growlers, Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2s and F-35s, commercial airliners, and Misawa AB’s F-16 daily flying missions.
“It is essential to communicate with all members utilizing the area and move with a sense of urgency to provide the best training environment possible with so much civilian traffic in our airspace,” said Kalkofen. “On occasion, we handle double the amount of missions compared to other larger C2 flights.”
The 610th ACF acts as a liaison between JASDF and the 35th Fighter Wing’s two fighter squadrons, integrating the pilots' aircraft into a lethal and ready force in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We must work as one team with JASDF to learn from one another and strengthen our alliance and readiness,” said Kalkofen. “Establishing relationships with our host-nation partner solidifies our mission accomplishments.”
In order to maximize wing readiness, the 610th ACF occasionally controls U.S. Navy and JASDF jets, added Kalkofen.
“It’s essential we familiarize ourselves with our counterparts because we never want to go into a war-time environment without establishing those relationships with our allies prior,” he continued.
Most of the personnel from this 610th ACF work at a capacity beyond their rank wearing multiple hats to fulfill the needs of the flight.
“I arrived at Misawa AB as a technician, but I became dual qualified as a controller and a technician to support my team,” said Senior Airman Nathan Ko, the 610th ACF weapons director. “With my dual qualification, I can provide the most updated, accurate and timely in-flight information to the pilots.”
Pilots train in designated airspaces to maintain their ability to fly. The 610th ACF always has the safety of the pilots in mind by decluttering the air space and giving real-time feedback.
“The 610th ACF identifies and maintains the airspace for us to fly in, making it a safe environment for us to maximize our training and readiness,” said Capt. Rex Anderson, a 14th Fighter Squadron pilot. “We could not get our job done without the help and guidance from our C2 crew. The Air Force-level awards they won is a testament to their hard work in ensuring our flying missions run as smoothly as possible."
The 610th ACF continues overcoming challenges to be a cohesive unit capable of winning Air Force-level awards.
"We want to thank the 35th Fighter Wing and group leadership, base units, and our peer squadrons for their support because these awards are as much a win for us as they are for the whole Misawa community and we could not have made it without them," said Kalkofen.