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Marines upgrade control tower

By Sgt. Wayne Edmiston , 2nd Marine Logistics Group

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Dec. 4, 2007 — Marines inspect the metal frame of a new air traffic control tower. Combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 are currently constructing an air traffic control tower to create a better working environment for its air traffic controllers. Photo by: Sgt. Wayne Edmiston.

Marines inspect the metal frame of a new air traffic control tower. Combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 are currently constructing an air traffic control tower to create a better working environment for its air traffic controllers. Photo by: Sgt. Wayne Edmiston.

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq, (Dec. 5, 2007) — The AN/TSQ-120B is a temporary air traffic control tower used by Marines in expeditionary operations until a more sturdy structure can be built. Although designed for just 90 days of continual use, the one at Al Taqaddum Air Base has seen more than its share of sorties since it was raised during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After years of planning by previous deployed units, combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 were recently assigned to construct a new, state of the art tower.

Working around delays caused by constant changes in the weather and aircraft flybys, the Marines poured the 30-by-30 foot concrete foundation and erected the prefabricated frame that will offer more capabilities to controllers.

The current expeditionary tower only allows controllers a 180-degree view of the airfield, but, once completed, the new one will provide an all-encompassing, 360-degree view, according to Master Sgt. Alexander M. Gutierrez, the Air Traffic Control Operations Chief for Marine Air Control Squadron 2.

“It lets (the controllers) work a whole lot better because they can see every aircraft they are working with,” said Gutierrez, a Kansas City, Kan., native. “It relieves a lot of pressure that comes with a challenging job.”

With more than 300 flights daily and 10,300 monthly, Al Taqaddum rivals most medium-sized commercial airports in the United States. The air traffic controllers here are responsible for ensuring the safety of all the inbound and outbound traffic, all of which is supporting the efforts of Multi National Force-West in Al Anbar Province.

The Marines working on the tower plan to have it completed within two to three weeks, according to the project’s staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Gunnery Sgt. Jason R. Gillepsie

“It takes considerable effort and a lot of skill to get something like this accomplished,” the Walla Walla, Wash., native said.

And since it has taken this long to get a new tower started, the engineers said they are putting their skills to work and ensuring it is built to last above all else.

“This is going to be a structure that is going to be here for a while and a lot of people are going to see it and even work in it,” Lance Cpl. Michael A. Kemp, a combat engineer and Crawfordsville, Ind., native said. “It’s the gratification of getting to help your fellow Marines that I enjoy.”