KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- With many moving parts in the sky, the 8th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) air traffic control (ATC) radar approach control (RAPCON) flight ensures all traffic are in communication and safely protected with their ability to be the “eyes in the sky”.
“The RAPCON gives expeditious clearances to allow rapid response to any threat, allowing the ‘fight tonight’ mentality,” said Staff Sgt. James Massey II, 8th OSS air traffic control RAPCON watch supervisor.
The flight maintains 24/7 surveillance over all activity within the airspace, contributing to the Wolf Pack’s F-16 Fighting Falcons joint, bilateral air-superiority over the Korean peninsula.
“Your head must constantly be on a swivel, and you are always multi-tasking,” Massey said. “There are many times where you must make a split-second decision and it needs to be the correct one. If you make the wrong one, then you are putting someone else’s life in danger.”
The training load response to real-world threats and the language barrier with joint and multi-national operations, contribute to an increased complexity within an already demanding career field. Thankfully, Massey said they don’t have to address those challenges alone.
“There are not many workplaces where we must heavily depend on each other,” said Republic of Korea Air Force Master Sgt. Seong Jin Kim, 38th Fighter Group operating branch radar controller. “That special environment makes us more connected, and it enriches our partnership.”
Together, they train and develop their controllers through live on-the-job training and various simulations. Additionally, they ensure to work with host-nation ATC facilities and U.S. flying community to establish standard procedures across the peninsula.
“In the work environment, ROKAF ATC borrows a lot of concepts from U.S. Air Force ATC, so this is a great chance to observe how they work with advanced stations and utilize regulations to keep control over the airspace,” Kim said.
Massey said he appreciates the value ROKAF adds to the mission as an indispensable asset to the Kunsan ATC team. They are both grateful for having each other to lean on.
“I’m glad we work so cohesively and are helpful to each other,” Kim said.