The Lost Boys
By Staff Sgt. Warren Spearman, 49th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 07, 2013
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Away from the hustle and bustle of Holloman, there are a group of Airmen who watch our skies and make sure aircraft is flying the friendly skies safely.
They are the air traffic controllers of White Sands Missile Range. They are charged with helping to protect the skies for civilian and military aircraft throughout New Mexico.
Housed at the J.W. Cox Control Center at WSMR, the 63 personnel (55 enlisted, one officer, and seven civilians) who comprise this group that works under the banner of the 49th Operations Support Squadron, enjoy the camaraderie and the atmosphere being away from the main hub provides.
"We have a really great environment here," said Tech. Sgt. Clifford McDonald, a watch supervisor with the 49th OSS. "We don't deal with many distractions."
"I enjoy it," said Airman 1st Class Kieffe Ng, an Air Traffic Controller with the 49th OSS. "I initially didn't want to come here, but it's not too bad."
Through a well deserved reputation, Air Traffic Control is known at Holloman to be a stressful and challenging job. It is no different at WSMR.
"The best part is that it's challenging," Ng says. "It keeps me on my toes."
The career field used to be the United States Army's and the Air Force's contingent was originally at Holloman, but when the Army built the facility and asked the USAF to run the operation, the USAF accepted, and they've been here since the late 90s.
They work in darkness, surrounded by radar screens for eight hours a day. It's an interesting experience for those who work ATC.
"It's a very unique environment," said Senior Airman Eric Beers, an air traffic controller with the 49th OSS.
"It took me six to eight months to get used to working in darkness; it messes with you after a while.
Yet there are those who are unaffected by remote atmosphere.
"I love being here," said Senior Airman Jan Watts, an air traffic controller with the 49th OSS. "I love the area. I love the scenery, and it really doesn't affect me being away from Holloman."