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CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq - Sgt. Jason G. Forguson stands atop the air traffic control tower, guiding incoming aircraft safely to the ground at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, March 29. Forguson, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Marine Air Control Squadron 2, MACS-1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and native of Amarillo, Texas, is an air traffic controller and has what many people view as one of the most stressful jobs in the Marine Corps.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

Air traffic controllers keep eyes on skies in Al Anbar province

6 Apr 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

The eyes of the controller search the dusty and overcast horizon, to locate the incoming aircraft and guide them safely to the ground below.

This scenario happens thousands of times throughout a deployment.

The Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, are responsible for these aircraft and may have one of the most stressful jobs in the Marine Corps. With the safety of hundreds of aircraft a day resting on the shoulders of a few Marines, it's easy to see why.

MACS-1's mission, while deployed, is to control all air traffic in the Al Anbar Province and also provide the aircraft with any information they may require while in flight.

"Controlling all the air traffic in the province is a huge responsibility," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard L. Williams, sergeant major, MACS-1. "Responsibility is something that we teach our Marines to deal with and to prepare for."

As proven daily by the Marines assigned to MACS-2, MACS-1, responsibility is just a part of the job.

"Air traffic controllers need to be able to deal with stressful situations," said Cory D. Allen, air traffic controller and native of Detroit. "Knowing so many people are relying on us is a huge responsibility, but it feels good when we get those aircraft to touchdown. I know that we are the ones that brought them in safely."

MACS-1, MACS-1 and MACS-2 have had a constant presence in Iraq since July 2003, said Maj. Darry W. Grossnickle, commanding officer.

"Air traffic control units are one of the few units who remain in Iraq for every rotation," he continued. "The MACS units merely rotate ATC detachments in and out of Iraq."

With MACS-1 and MACS-2 being deployed, many of their Marines feel comfortable in Iraq.

"Being deployed isn't that big of a deal," said Allen, who is on his third deployment to Camp Korean Village, Iraq. "Deployment is a great experience, regardless if it's your first time or your third."

Due to their continuous support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Marine Corps Aviation Association presented MACS-1 with the Commandant of the Marine Corps Aviation Trophy 2005 for the best aviation unit in the Marine Corps. They also were the recipients of the Air Traffic Control Association's Earl F. Ward Memorial Medallion, for the most outstanding unit in military or civilian air traffic controllers over the past year.

Even though these Marines have one of the most stressful jobs in the Marine Corps, they are still motivated and ready to do their part, said Grossnickle, a native of Laurens, Iowa.
"The Marines are proud to be in Iraq," he said. "They are dedicated to providing the very best in air traffic control and they understand the important role they play to ensure that Marines on the ground are continually supported with Marine aviation, regardless of the weather."

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing