During routine, the soldiers of the IAF Control Division work in many regional units dispersed around Israel. They are in charge of managing Israel’s airspace and synchronizing aircraft activity in the different regions. Last week, all units gathered under one roof – the Control Unit of the Southern Ovda Airbase – in order to determine who the best control unit is. Competitive atmosphere was at its peak, as each unit strove to prove its superiority over the rest.
“Organizing” the Skies
During the marathon, the controllers were divided into groups and competed in air defense, attack and transportation missions. One by one, they sat in front of the black, dotted screen and tried to “organize” the skies. While simulator instructions presented them with different scenarios and even simulated the pilots with which they communicated, the controllers had to exhibit their knowledge of systems operating and analysis of aerial picture, deal with unplanned events and work as a team.
“The controllers must understand the overall picture, be familiar with IAF policies and classify enemy targets”, said Y, a Controller of the Ovda Control Unit. “They are a knowledge source which connects the control rooms with aircraft in the field. They need to make sure everything is going accordingly to plan while simultaneously manage the airspace”, added Lieutenant L, also a controller in Ovda Airbase.
The jury, which consisted of past and present IAF high-ranking officers, also had to maintain integrity and objectivity. “As a judge, my challenge is to ignore the way I think I would have completed the task”, said Lt. Col. (Res.) Moti, an experienced controller in the division. “I must always remember that they have different work methods than mine”.
And the Winner Is…
Opposed to other training exercises in the division, this marathon focused on two main goals. The first and obvious goal is maintaining the operational competency among the soldiers of the division. The second and slightly less common goal was team building. “We are one, united division”, said Colonel Eran, Commander of IAF Control Division. “This phrase can be hung on any wall here, but it becomes extra meaningful in days like these”.
Inside the bunker, the sounds of excitement are suddenly replaced with tension and concentration. “The reactions to this event were stronger than in any previous event we conducted”, said Lt. Col. Tal of the division headquarters. “The units are extremely eager to win”.
As the control heats were over, the controllers had a moment to catch a breath. Meanwhile, the judges assembled to discuss the results. They scored the controllers for their operation in the simulations, the theoretical tests and also for team spirit. The fight was close, and the announcement by Division Commander was not late to come: “And the winner is – the Southern Control Unit”.