Control tower gets makeover

Capt. Erin Dorrance
Kaiserslautern American

Ramstein air traffic controllers left their 10-story tower for a one-story MSN-7 mobile control tower Jan. 10.

During the next two months, the air traffic control tower will receive approximately $313,000 in upgrades that will transform the 1952 structure.

“My pledge is to provide our outstanding Airmen with a 21st century airfield operations facility they deserve,” said Lt. Col. Nelson Johnson, 86th Operations Support Squadron commander. “Refurbishing the tower takes us one step closer to achieving this goal.”

The refurbished tower will include more work space and will remove a console installed under a self-help project 20 years ago. The current tower holds double the equipment it was designed to hold, said Tech. Sgt. Trevor Browning, 86th OSS assistant chief controller.    

In order to maintain air traffic controller operations, the 86th OSS called upon the 1st Combat Communications Squadron for use of their MSN-7 mobile tower.

***image1***The mobile tower, which sits perched on the back end of a humvee, was added to the squadron’s inventory in August 1999, said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Pagel, 1st CBCS airfield systems technician. The tower has been used in several exercises and real-world operations in Spain, Bulgaria and Iraq. 

The mobile tower can be used for day, night and covert operations and can be set up in 90 minutes, or in 25 minutes with limited operations, and can be sustained under all kinds of battlefield and adverse weather conditions for up to 120 days, he said. There are seven mobile towers in the Air Force and the 1st CBCS’ tower is the only one in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe command.
Within four hours of relocating to the mobile tower, the controllers were quickly tested with an in-flight emergency which was handled flawlessly. 

“We are fully operational in the mobile tower,” said Senior Master Sgt. Donald Colbert, 86th OSS control tower chief controller. “It was a team effort to make this happen and I can’t thank everyone enough for the long hours and their positive attitudes.”
Senior Airman Jon Braton, 1st CBCS airfield systems technician, was part of the team that set up the MSN-7 mobile tower for the relocation.

“It has been interesting working with other agencies around the base and realizing how much our equipment affects others and helps them accomplish their mission,” Airman Braton said. 

The move also provided training for the Airmen.

“When we deploy we are often in towers similar to this one, so it helps prepare us for the future,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric Briggs, 86th OSS control tower watch supervisor, who worked the first shift in the mobile tower. 

The controllers expect to move back to their “new” permanent tower in March. Until then they will continue their mission without skipping a beat from the MSN-7 mobile tower.