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Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Lexington native controls the skies in western Iraq

5 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Every day Lance Cpl. Clark S. Webb controls the movement and flight of millions of dollars worth of military aircraft.

The Lexington, Ky., native, an air traffic controller with Marine Air Control Squadron 2, is currently supporting air operations with a mobile team of Marine air traffic controllers here.

In June 2003, Webb graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and a few days later, on June 11, he was standing on the yellow footprints of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., for basic training.

“A lot of my friends from high school had left for the Marine Corps when I was a junior,” he said. “From what they told me, I knew that joining the Corps was what I wanted to do.”

After basic training and a month of Marine Combat Training, Webb reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., for the air traffic controller’s course in late October 2003.

“I joined under an aviation operations contract,” he said. “When I found out I was going to be in air traffic control, I was excited because I knew the job was an important one.”

During his time in Florida, Webb learned the basics of air traffic control, communications and airfield operations. Following his training in Pensacola, Webb reported to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.

Webb spent his first year in the Marine Corps with the headquarters squadron learning his trade. In the air traffic control field, Marines are not awarded their military occupational specialty designator without completing two qualifications pertinent to their job.

In October of 2004, Webb was transferred to MACS-2 and completed his required qualifications —ground control, which consisted of directing aircraft around the flightline and taxiways, and clearance data was the final test of a Marine air traffic controller.

“Clearance data is best described as the secretaries of the tower,” he explained. “You pass on all types of data and information to the pilots. Everything from weather conditions and approach patterns, to what other aircraft are in the immediate area.”

On the same day when he completed his final qualification, Webb received word that he and the Marines of his squadron were deploying to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Marines of MACS-2 arrived in Iraq in the beginning of January and spread out to man ATC detachments at the various forward operating posts throughout the Marine Corps’ area of responsibility. Webb was assigned to Camp Korean Village and has been managing the skies over western Iraq since.

“I’m glad to be out here doing my part,” he said. “We are supporting the aircraft that are supporting the Marines on the ground. Air traffic control is a vital element of Marine aviation, we keep them safe and give them the information they need to complete their mission.”

Due to return to North Carolina in early August, Webb said he is looking forward to seeing his family and friends again.

“I miss everyone back home, but I know that it’s important that I am here,” he said. “They have been extremely supportive and I can’t wait to see everyone again.”

*For more information about the Marine or news reported on in this story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil*
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