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Cowboy Controllers manage both civilian, military aircraft

U.S. Air Force Capt. Carl Mortensen, 266th Range Squadron air weapons instructor for the Republic of Singapore, and Tech. Sgt. Sam Noyce, 266th RANS operations training noncommissioned officer-in-charge, sit at the cowboy control stations April 19, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Cowboy controllers have the unique responsibility of handling both civilian and military aircraft simultaneously. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Carl Mortensen, 266th Range Squadron air weapons instructor for the Republic of Singapore, and Tech. Sgt. Sam Noyce, 266th RANS operations training noncommissioned officer-in-charge, sit at the cowboy control stations April 19, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Cowboy controllers have the unique responsibility of handling both civilian and military aircraft simultaneously. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- From across the globe, military units are coming here for some of the most advanced modern-day military training possible.

These units rely on 266th Range Squadron Airmen from the Cowboy Control section for safety and strategy information when venturing inside the Mountain Home Range Complex.

"Our primary mission is to maintain positive control of the range while ensuring the safe operations of military and civilian aircraft which transit throughout our airspace," said Maj. Jody Wolfley, 266th RANS Cowboy Control commander. "We also ensure there is an open frequency of communication for those aircraft and provide excellent ground control intercept training to the military aircrews who will be experiencing these types of scenarios in combat."

Cowboy controllers have the unique responsibility of handling both civilian and military aircraft simultaneously.

"We have a designated frequency which all aircraft utilize to contact us when they are near our airspace," said Wolfley. "Generally, they are handed off to us from another control center because our airspace is extremely active. We find out their intentions so we can pass that information along to our military aircraft inside the range so they can de-conflict as needed."

Having an overall picture of everything going on inside the range assists controllers in establishing rules and regulations for all aircraft and personnel.

"We basically have the God's-eye view of everything that's going on," said Wolfley. "We paint a picture for the military aircrews so they know when and how to engage the enemy, how they can defend themselves from those threats and how to maneuver during air-to-air training engagements.

"It's important for us to train them on what they can expect to see in the warzone," he continued. "They will base their objectives and tactics on the information we provide them whether it's air-to-air or air-to-ground. We also provide the air refueling vectors for aircraft who request it."

The Cowboy Control Airmen have had multiple opportunities to work with military personnel from around the world.

"Our team has worked with the military aircrew from Germany, Canada, Israel, India, Jordan, Britain and Australia," said Wolfley. "Those countries travel here to use the range in support of multi-national exercises they are participating in and will have their own personnel designated as mission commanders introduce injects and dictate mission specific information to their fellow countrymen. All the information from the exercise flows back to us and as the air operations center."

During full-scale training operations more than 60 aircraft can be maneuvering inside the range complex at the same time giving controllers a monumental task to perform, said Tech Sgt. Sam Noyce, 266th RANS operations training noncommissioned officer-in-charge, concluding:

"It can be hectic in here sometimes but being able to maintain safety on the range for multiple maneuvering aircraft is what I love most about my job," said Tech Sgt. Sam Noyce, 266th RANS operations training noncommissioned officer-in-charge."

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