JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md., –
A team of nine JBA Airmen play a key role in the high-priority airlift missions and contingency response of the Air Force’s largest helicopter squadron.
Supporting the 1st Helicopter squadron from behind-the-scenes are the 1st HS mission controllers that adhere to support career field core functions: mission monitoring, flight following and emergency actions.
“We support the crew from start to finish,” said Tech. Sgt. Angeline Mahoney, 1st HS support flight chief and mission controller. “We flight follow, keep track of all assets and personnel, authenticate and disseminate missions, and alert air crews.”
The 1st HS, which operates the UH-1N Iroquois, provides local airlift for senior military and civilian leaders, high-ranking dignitaries and distinguished visitors as well as emergency medical evacuation in the National Capital Region.
Tech. Sgt. Crystal Dunn, 1st HS Command Post NCO in charge, explained that they have a significant mission supporting missions in downtown Washington, D.C.
These missions range from running 24/7 operations for the presidential State of the Union address to coordinating high-level and high-visibility exercises for the U.S. Northern Command and Joint Force Headquarters.
The mission controllers’ involvement with the 1st HS mission earned them the title 2015 Small Unit Command Post of the Year, which they qualified for by having less than 10 members in their unit. The small unit was recognized for supporting 2,894 flights, 4,528 crew hours and holding 15,900 alert hours as well as numerous additional accomplishments.
"The 1st Helicopter Squadron Mission Controllers are an exceptional group of Airmen that provide a critical command and control link between not only the aircrew and the leadership, but also to numerous outside agencies to ensure our mission success,” said Lt. Col. Jun Oh, 1st HS commander. “We simply could not accomplish our daily mission without their support. They are proven professionals that earned back-to-back Small Unit Command Post of Year for the whole Air Force in 2014 and 2015...testament to their excellent leadership and dedication. I could not be any prouder to have them as part of our team."
The 24-hour shift held by the mission controllers are in conjunction with the schedules of the aircrews they support. Throughout their day, they monitor anywhere from one to three exercises a day, which host approximately 23 to 30 departures and landings, called lines. Their schedule ultimately depends on what operations the crews are trying to accomplish.
“We can have one to 18 lines, one to four lines, or one to 23 lines,” said Mahoney. “The summer months are busier than the winter months.”
In addition to ensuring mission success, the team also maintained education accomplishments with 153 semester hours toward completion of Community College of the Air Force and bachelor degrees, averaging a grade point average of 3.5.
“We have a very high caliber of controllers here that are not only doing the job but also taking care of themselves,” Dunn said.
Their career field education training plan includes completing certification requirements, in which execution is aided by a partnership between mission controllers and aircrews.
“The aircrews facilitate our certifications just like we do theirs,” Dunn said. “When we need to certify someone on deployed radio communication, they’re more than willing to help us out.”
The 1st HS mission controllers supporting the aircrews of the 1st HS help ensure successful mission completion for both teams.
“The people are incredible,” said Mahoney. “They make this mission awesome.”