AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Topping the list of most stressful jobs in the United States is an occupation that is usually forgotten. It's not a SWAT team policeman or a brain surgeon who face the highest stress levels day to day, it's an air traffic controller who is responsible for tracking and controlling the movement of aircraft and hundreds of lives each day.
The Marine air traffic controllers of Marine Air Control Squadron 2 are no different. The entire squadron works hard each day to ensure the smooth and timely flow of aircraft and ground vehicles moving on the flightline as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) continues the fight to secure the peace and stability for the Iraqi people.
"We have the ability to see a lot further and a lot higher than the pilots, so we provide them with the information they need to take off, land and fly in our airspace," said Cpl. Marques J. Johnson, air traffic controller and native of Bowie, Md. "We can see where and when they can't."
The Marines of MACS-2 work to coordinate the control of air traffic throughout the various forward operating bases in the Al Anbar province.
Although it may seem that these Marines are confined to dark rooms, staring at radar all day, the entire squadron works as a team 24-hours a day to ensure air operations are running at full throttle.
"Out here, the air traffic controllers are like the infantry of the squadron," said Sgt. Jason S. Seaton, radar technician and native of McDongough, Ga. "Every section is here to support them."
A lot goes into making sure the controllers can do their job. The squadron has three sections designated to support the ATC mission - radar, communications and auxiliary.
The radar section maintains and runs the radar equipment so the controllers can manage their airspace. The communications Marines ensure the radios and related broadcasting systems are open for the controllers to speak to aircraft, ground vehicles and numerous components of airfield operations. The auxiliary Marines operate vehicles and maintain the facilities in which the squadron works.
"All the components work as a team to get the job done," said Sgt. Robert N. Randall, communications technician and native of Blackfoot, Idaho. "We are all here to support one mission, so we work hand in hand to make sure it happens."
With all the hands of the control squadron pulling the rope in the same direction, the controllers remain on top of their game as they continue to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"When things get really busy, you realize how important it is to stay proficient in your job," said Lance Cpl. Michael S. Hubman, air traffic controller and native of Woburn, Mass. "These aircraft aren't just training or meeting numbers, they are accomplishing the mission."
"Every single Marine here puts forth maximum effort to achieve the goal," said Master Sgt. Dwayne T. Mills, maintenance chief and native of Opelousas, La. "Mission accomplishment is in the forefront of their minds each and every day."
With such a monumental task in front of them, the Marines of MACS-2 continue to remain a vital element of airfield operations as they support air operations throughout the Al Anbar province of Iraq every day. A comforting voice from the ground, pilots and aircrew know they can count on the controllers to keep a watchful eye for them.