Oklahoma National Guard air traffic controllers receive send-off at deployment ceremony
By Staff Sgt. Brian Schroeder
Oklahoma National Guard Public Affairs
MOORE, Oklahoma - Friends, family members and fellow Oklahoma National Guardsmen gathered for a departure ceremony for a small contingency of Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers July 1 at Veterans Memorial Park. The group of air traffic controllers from Company F, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard, will report to Fort Hood, Texas to complete post-mobilizaiton training before deploying to the CENTCOM area of operations later this summer.
Spc. Bailey Apodaca-Weaver, air traffic controller with F Co., has been in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for three years and is also studying to become an air traffic controller as a civilian. Her influence to work in Army aviation came from her grandfather, who served as a Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.
“Getting simulated time at the unit helps, but talking with live aircraft makes you more proficient at the job and builds up your confidence, which you really need,” Apodaca-Weaver said. “I want to come back and be proud that I went on my first deployment, did a good job and built confidence and be more proud of myself.”
Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, adjutant general for Oklahoma, said the Oklahoma National Guard has been tasked with so many missions, from COVID-19 response in nursing homes and food banks, to a steady deployment rotation. However, despite the variety of missions, Thompson said, the Oklahoma National Guard faithfully answers the call every time.
“As your adjutant general, I’ve got to tell you, I am so proud of who you are and what you represent,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter how frequently that call comes. It doesn’t matter how long that call lasts. You always answer. Always. You truly are the best America has to offer. Now, in the midst of everything we have going on, we call on you again. But the thing about it is, you always answer. I have never been prouder of the Guard than I am right now at this moment in our nation’s history.”
Sgt. Tyler Smith, air traffic control operator, said the small unit of air traffic controllers is prepared, well trained and ready for their mission down range. He added the new responsibility of recently becoming a non-commissioned officer will present a challenge he is personally ready to encounter.
“I am ready to take my new leadership role by the horns. I want to learn a lot,” Smith said. “I am excited to see the rest of us grow, too, as Soldiers and as a unit.”
While deployed, Company F will provide air traffic, air space and airfield management services. The unit enables combined arms teams to synchronize Unmanned Aircraft Systems and manned aircraft in controlled airspace as the senior aviation commander directs and leads ongoing operations.