Face of Defense: Air Traffic Controller Fulfills Long-Term Plans
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Sept. 5, 2008 For one Iron Eagle soldier here, there was never a question of if she would serve. The only question was when.
Army Spc. Radha Bhramdat watches as two Black Hawk helicopters land at the Camp Taji Airfield, north of Baghdad, Aug. 28, 2008. Bhramdat is an air traffic controller with the 4th Infantry Division’s Company F, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Since I was 15, my mom started giving me the idea of serving in the military. She is real pro-military,” Army Spc. Radha Bhramdat said.
Bhramdat, of New York City, is an air traffic controller with the 4th Infantry Division’s Company F, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade.
“Then, when I was a freshmen in high school, 9/11 happened and the event had a big impact on me,” she said. “I lived very close to where it happened, so joining the military was inevitable for me.”
Bhramdat begin her Army career by serving in the New York, and then North Carolina National Guard. After four years of serving in the Guard, Bhramdat made the move to active duty. Now she coordinates aircraft movement from the Camp Taji control tower, just north of Baghdad, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I’ve been doing this for about two months, and this job is more than I expected,” she said while keeping close watch on the airfield. “Once you get an aircraft [on radar], you start communicating with them, and then you tell them where you want them to land. It is a lot to worry about with all the other aircraft in the area.”
Bhramdat works in a company of more than 40 air traffic controllers who are responsible for safely orchestrating the take-offs and landings of all types of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Soldiers from the company are spread out in different locations in support of the Iraq mission.
With flights departing or landing day and night, air traffic controllers coordinate their movements to prevent accidents. They coordinate air movements at sites ranging from temporary landing zones to fixed-tower airfields.
The company, based at Fort Hood, Texas, stood up only a year ago and is still growing. More than 80 percent of the controllers were straight out of advanced individual training when they joined the team.
Soldiers new to the company are required to perform 154 days of on-the-job training, which includes monitoring the progress of aircraft, conducting local ground control, and then becoming certified by the Federal Aviation Administration for the particular airfield where they work.
“This is her first experience at a very, very busy facility,” said Army Capt. Amanda Violette, Company F commander from Nobleboro, Maine. “Growing our own has been the biggest challenge with this company. She has shown so much potential it is unbelievable.”
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade.)