QAYYARAH AIRFIELD WEST, Iraq – The average day for air traffic controllers involves a lot of moving parts and Airmen working constantly to ensure safe and secure air flow. For Qayyarah Airfield West, Iraq, this rests solely on the shoulders of just a few people.
Not only do those Airmen control the airspace, at the airfield commonly called ‘Q-West’, they also work side-by side with the Iraqi Air Force controllers.
Senior Airman Brennan Gettinger, a 447th Air Expeditionary Group air traffic controller, supports the critical airfield for strategic airlift along with the IqAF.
“Friendship is key,” said Gettinger, who is deployed from the 319th Operations Support Squadron at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. “Our mission is to train and advise the [Iraqis] because they don’t get the training most people do back in the States.”
The U.S. air traffic controllers interact and build relationships with their counterparts by assisting with Iraqi aircraft movement from the IqAF facility located at a separate area.
Senior Master Sgt. Adam Schill, 447th AEG Detachment 1 superintendent, said the mission is different here than that of home station locations as Q-West has a landing zone versus a runway. He added, working directly with Iraqi controllers adds a unique and beneficial element to their mission because the relationship with the IqAF controllers is key, not only to the growth of the Iraqis, but also the Airmen doing the training.
“It’s a very rewarding experience for the [Airmen] because they really get to reap the reward of building a good relationship with the Iraqi Air Force and see the fruits of their labor come to play when the Iraqis are controlling [their] aircraft,” said Schill. “They are very proud of what they do and we are very proud of them too.”
Schill went on to explain how the success of past rotations helped train the Iraqis to the point where they are directing different types of aircraft onto the airfield, and control it now with little to no assistance from U.S. forces.
Along with the air advisor role, Schill said his team performed extremely well during this deployment.
“Knowing those of us here are supporting the whole airfield is simply amazing,” said Schill. “To watch everyone come together while simultaneously training the Iraqis – it’s amazing. I have never worked with a better group than this.”