PRED SEA – Serving as the eyes to the sky, they ensure the safe operation of Boxer’s many combat aircraft, and accurate identification of all air contacts in Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) airspace.
While out to sea, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 11 personnel integrate with USS Boxer (LHD 4) air traffic controllers to execute organized maneuvering of all BOXER ARG and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aircraft. "Top priorities for TACRON 11 are to train, deploy, and support combat-ready detachments for all Amphibious Ready Groups and Amphibious Squadron Commanders," said Chief Operations Specialist Thomas McCorkle, Leading Chief Petty Officer of Detachment Two.
TACRON 11 has several capabilities ranging from expeditionary operations ashore to amphibious air operations.
“We man and operate existing air traffic control facilities ashore and assist with the establishment of remote air control capabilities at landing zones, temporary airfields, forward operating bases, or forward air refueling points,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ansel Cox, TACRON 11’s Plans Officer. “We also maintain an air watch to provide situational awareness to the officer in tactical command, manage alert aircraft, assist in the management of the fleet air defense identification zone, and serve as Air Resource Element Coordinator and Airspace Control Authority when directed.”
TACRON 11 Sailors operate from the Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) on board Boxer. From TACC, air traffic controllers are able to track multiple aircraft in real time, a critical factor to protecting and controlling airspace utilized by Boxer aircraft.
“When embarked, TACC is the primary air control agency for the Expeditionary Strike Group and Amphibious Task Force,” said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Karen Slezak, TACRON 11’s Leading Petty Officer. “We’re responsible for all air operations supporting the amphibious force while working in the [amphibious operating area].”
Boxer air traffic controllers turn over control of aircraft to TACRON 11 beyond ten nautical miles from the ship. This ensures seamless cooperation between Boxer and TACRON 11.
“In order for our traffic control environment to work flawlessly requires integration both from two separate commands to ensure mission success, that means that TACRON integrates with AATCC [Amphibious Air Traffic Control Center] and AATCC integrates with TACRON,” said Chief Air Traffic Controller Jeffrey Bruder. “Not only do we operate in the air traffic control environment flawlessly, we also operate in the plans environment flawlessly which ensures our air space is reserved and our areas designated for use.”
The squadron also possesses capabilities to support a wide variety of non-combatant missions.
”We support contingency missions such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and defense support to civil authorities,” said McCorkle. “We can also deploy expeditionary teams ashore to augment the Marine Expeditionary Unit or other expeditionary naval forces, and provide stand alone air traffic control services in any environment.”
TACRON 11 Sailors realize the importance of their contribution to Boxer’s deployment missions.
“The most rewarding thing is knowing that at the end of the day all pilots and aircraft make it back to Boxer safely without incident and our overall mission is able to continue,” said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Patrick Burns.
TACRON ELEVEN traces its origin to the Pacific island hopping campaign of World War II where wartime experiences dictated a requirement for organizations trained in the control of air support for amphibious operations. Air Support Control units were formed to advise the Amphibious Commander on all matters involving aircraft employment, including air support for ground troops, combat air patrol and anti-submarine patrol.
Boxer is currently deployed in the 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security and theater security cooperation efforts.