Pinging the Pilots: 52 OSS RAWS Keeps Comms with Aircraft Online

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Albert Morel
  • 52nd Fighter Wing

When thinking of Spangdahlem AB, one of the first things that may come to mind is the F-16 Fighting Falcons flying overhead, but what may be easily overlooked is how exactly these aircraft are communicating with the ground crews below. This is where Airmen from the 52nd Operation Support Squadron’s Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems (RAWS) team come in.

RAWS Airmen provide around-the-clock upkeep of on-base and regional radar equipment, ground-to-air radios and weather systems in support of airfield operations here.

As the name suggests, the RAWS team's highly-trained technicians are responsible for sustaining nearly every system that enables safe flying operations and reliable communication between Pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel.

“We maintain every single subsystem that separates the pilot from the Air Traffic Controller,” said Tech. Sgt. Alan Ruiz, 52 OSS RAWS non-commissioned officer in charge of maintenance. “That is radios, radar, weather, anything the pilots will need for their flight and enables communication, we maintain and test.”

Ruiz also emphasized the important role RAWS plays when it comes to guaranteeing that the 52nd Fighter Wing and 726th Air Mobility Squadron are able to carry out their missions.

“Our job is to maintain all systems and make sure that the mission can happen,” said Ruiz. “If one of our systems goes down, whether it be weather, radar or the integrated logistics support systems, they lose a percentage of flying capabilities and if we lose enough of that then it becomes a safety issue.”

The team maintains systems such as the Digital Airport Surveillance Radar (DASR) which identifies aircraft and transmits their location to ATC personnel who then use the information to maintain safe flying operations, and the Tactical Meteorological Observation System (TMQ-53) which is used to determine current and future climate conditions that can affect aircraft. These are just two of over 70 systems which are vital to not only getting aircraft in the air but also ensuring reliable communication between pilots and ground crews.

RAWS Airmen take pride in ensuring Spangdahlem's mission and know that their expertise, skill and efforts contribute to the 52nd Fighter Wing’s ability to provide unmatched Air Power options and deterrence.

“It [work] just gives someone purpose and it gives me a feeling that we're actually making an impact,” said Senior Airman Angel Franco, 52 OSS RAWS journeymen. “Even with small things, like tinkering with a radio, you never know how far that can go. That's the best thing to know, that what I'm doing here is having a wider impact out there.”

With such a vast number of tasks, RAWS Airmen pick up skill sets which are applicable to their everyday lives outside of work.

“Learning how to troubleshoot is probably one of the most important skills to have in life,” said Franco. “Learning troubleshooting methods here has helped me with so many things outside of work such as fixing my car, fixing my computer, and even fixing issues around the house. When I was younger I would have so much trouble with all sorts of things, but now I have more confidence to actually tackle a challenge and complete it.”

Though the RAWS Airmen describe their career specialty as one of the Air Force’s lesser-known career fields, their support greatly contributes to smooth flight operations.

“This career field is one of those hidden gems that not a lot of people talk about,” said Ruiz. “We'll do everything from electrical maintenance such as soldering circuit cards, to maintenance on radar engines such as oil changes, gear changes, we even work with software… We deal with everything. It's never the same thing day in and day out.”