Guardians of Ellsworth's airspace

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rebecca Imwalle
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Air safety is the ultimate goal of Ellsworth's elite team of air traffic controllers, monitoring the skies to ensure the well-being of aircrew and those occupying the land below.

These 25 Airmen are responsible for the safety of Ellsworth's B-1 bombers and all others that come within the bases airspace, whether military, commercial or private aircraft.

Senior Airman Steven Beardsworth, 28th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, explains that he loves the fun environment that his career brings him.

"Contrary to popular belief-- we are not the people with the orange cones," Beardsworth joked. "We talk to aircrew to ensure they are separated from other aircraft and that no issues take place in flight. We get them from point A to point B in the safest and most expeditious way possible."

Beardsworth said they generally speak with military aircraft, clear them for departure and give them their local flying pattern
"Whether it's one aircraft or 20, we are responsible for a large sum of money and the lives involved," Beardsworth noted. "It is potentially a high stress environment. If a conflict arises, you can't just change your paperwork and have the problem fixed... when you're in the moment, every decision counts."

Pilots need to have two-way communication with an ATC for the duration of their flight. Aircraft need this contact to make it to their destination.

Tech. Sgt. Elliott Benton, 28th OSS assistant chief controller, explained that his career field can be fairly competitive, but finds that he tends to compete with himself, trying to be the best he can.

"Training can be very intense," Benton said. "There is a high washout rate in the beginning, and the training never stops. When you change stations, there's more training; your job might be the same, but it's a different airfield that you must be familiarized with. It can take six months to a year to get spun up at a new base."

Controllers work with many base agencies including ground crews, weather, the fire department and airfield management to ensure mission effectiveness.

"This isn't a typical career," Beardsworth said. "You don't come in each day expecting the same thing every day, you're always thinking on your toes."

Benton explained that Ellsworth controllers make it possible for the B-1 bombers to carry out their mission, giving them a safe environment to practice tactics and maneuvers they can use downrange.