From the Frontlines: Senior Airman Kevin Brothers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Torey Griffith
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
He guides aircraft through the skies, ensuring their separation from other aircraft, from weather threats, and terrain obstructions, helping them reach their destinations unscathed.

Senior Airman Kevin Brothers, a radar air traffic controller from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, supporting the 332nd Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron.

The mix of commercial, private and military air traffic cruising through the large chunk of Iraqi airspace controlled by the Balad Combined Center Radar Approach Control facility was something Airman Brothers had to adjust to.

"Traffic wise, Balad is way different from Whiteman," said Airman Brothers. "You have a mix of everything from UAVs to civilian airliners, to fighters, to C-130s, and then Cessnas. There is a complete mix of traffic."

Along with a change in traffic to control, Airman Brothers faces another challenge: communicating with the native controllers. While English is the official language of air traffic control, accents from both ends of the spectrum can confuse the simplest of messages.

"Dealing with foreign controllers can be difficult at first," said Airman Brothers. "But after time, you are able to understand them better, and vise versa."

Airman Brothers also separates the aircraft for which he is responsible from tactical aircraft performing missions. This is for the safety of the transitioning aircraft, the safety of the tactical aircraft, and the success of the mission.

"The numerous tactical aircraft that I am not in direct communication with, but have to separate from often need a 60 by 60-mile chunk of airspace of which I can't use several thousand feet," he said. "They don't want to be under an aircraft that could possibly be dropping ordinance."

The job is demanding, but Airman Brothers is up for the challenge. After graduating tech school, Airman Brothers completed more than a year of additional training here at Whiteman to earn his five-level certification. That preparation taught him the skills he needs to guide aircraft in instrument flight.

"Airman Brothers has been one of our hardest workers, and he always had the most monitored time in the facility," said Staff Sergeant Joshua Nordin, 509th Operation Support Squadron air traffic controller at the Whiteman radar approach control facility.
Sergeant Nordin and Airman Brothers both know the challenges faced while deployed are what help develop good controllers into better controllers.

"The best part about my deployment is the valuable experience I'm gaining over here," Airman Brothers said. "I know it will help me out in the long run, as I progress through my career."