Military News

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ATC Airman keeps eyes on BALTOP mission


by Senior Airman Michael Battles
39th Air Base wing Public Affairs


6/17/2015 - POWIDZ AIR BASE, Poland  -- One air traffic controller Airman, alongside their Polish counterparts, is the sole U.S. eyes in the sky at Powdiz Air Base during Baltic Operations 2015.

BALTOPS is a multinational maritime exercise in Poland, Sweden, Germany, and throughout the Baltic Sea, including participation from 14 NATO and three partner nations taking place June 5-20. BALTOPS is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, as well as demonstrate resolve of allied and partner forces to defend the Baltic region.

In support of BALTOPS, Tech. Sgt. Lauren Crowell, 100th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, is the only U.S. personnel assigned to the BALTOPS mission at Powidz for ATC.

"I'm here at the request of Poland," Crowell said. "I'm acting as sort of a liaison between the U.S. and Polish. There is a language barrier, so I can help to coordinate between the two countries."

According to Crowell, she is responsible for keeping track of 16 different flights coming in and out of Powidz during her deployment. Crowell also processes requests between the U.S. and Poland, which reduces the amount of time and coordination typically needed due to the language barrier.

"Each time we take off I'm up here in the tower coordinating and ensuring things run smoothly for the tower and the aircraft," she said. "There are definitely some challenges working in a tower owned by a different country, but we pull together to get the mission done."

According to Lt. Col. Krzysztof Szymaniec, 33rd Air Transport Base Operations Group commander, the U.S. Air Force is a critical asset in accomplishing the BALTOPS mission at Powidz.

"We are a host station for different NATO countries and we have a lot of engagement to show the extent of how strong NATO is," he said. "[BALTOPS], which is mostly about supporting the tankers ... is a huge challenge for this base. Not only the training and flying, but the logistics we have to meet the expectations of our NATO partners."

Additionally, Crowell stated that her favorite part of the job is getting to know and build partnerships with her Polish counterparts.

"Between take offs and landings we actually talk about the differences in the way we do things in the tower," she said. "We each have a way of doing things, but as long as the aircraft get where they need to, is what is important."

In the end, Crowell explained that BALTOPS is a perfect way for the U.S. and Poland to combine efforts to achieve one goal.

"Exercises like BALTOPS are about building relationships, along with training," she said. "The more we get to learn about our partners and how they operate will only help us accomplish the mission in the long run."

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