Airspace management and control procedures are critical force multipliers for Army aviation operations. To ensure the execution of such multipliers, Air Traffic Services Soldiers are responsible for enhancing force protection measures, minimizing the risks of fratricide to air space users and ground combat units, and overall increasing force effectiveness.
Spc. Kaleb Russell, a native of Friendsville, Tennessee, is an air traffic control operator with Company F, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. Over the last nine months, his skills as an operator were tested in a real-world scenario when Russell served as a mobile tower shift leader in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve in the Central Command area of responsibility.
Russell joined the U.S. Army Reserve after graduating from high school in 2018. He then attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and later Advanced Individual Training at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Upon graduating from AIT, Russell reported to Fort Hood, Texas, where he immediately started mobilization activities with Company F.
“As soon as I got to Fort Hood, the unit welcomed me,” he said. “I fit right in.”
During the deployment, it did not take long for Russell’s leadership to notice his prevailing potential. Eventually, he received a battlefield promotion and was by-name selected as a shift leader – a role typically assigned to a seasoned non-commissioned officer.
“This responsibility is not given to just anyone,” said Sgt. First Class Charles Cox, the senior ATC operator for Company F. “You usually need years of experience and more rank before getting assigned this position.”
As a shift leader, Russell was responsible for the efficiency of mobile tower operations. Some of his duties included maintaining facility records, managing and briefing personnel during assigned shifts, and assisting controllers during emergencies.
According to Russel, his promotion was the moment, “where it all kicked off.”
“I got excited. I started trying even harder with my job,” he said. “I figured, if I keep working hard at this, it can benefit me in a lot of other ways, to include my civilian education.”
Recently, Russell’s company redeployed to Fort Hood, Texas, where they completed demobilization operations. His next steps are to reintegrate himself back into family life and the community, and attain a college degree in a field similar to his military job.
“This [military occupational specialty] was a good route for me to take,” said Russell. “I plan on getting an ATC management degree and pursue a career with it on the civilian side, while still serving as a Reserve Soldier.”
Russell’s contributions during his first deployment, so early in his career, set an example for new Soldiers to follow. His efforts fostered an environment of success for future Reserve Soldiers of the 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade.