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Vance civilian named Air Force Air Traffic Control Manager of the Year

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Soto
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Robert Ochs was recently named the Air Traffic Control Manager of the Year for the U.S. Air Force.

The award recognizes Ochs as being the best at his job throughout the entire of the Air Force, and his positive impact on the daily operations of the 71st Operations Support Squadron.

Ochs, a retired Air Force air traffic controller, is the Assistant Air Traffic Manager at Vance Air Force Base.

“I first came to Vance in 1995 as a staff sergeant and eventually made technical sergeant here,” said Ochs. “I came back in 2005 to work as a civilian.”

Ochs says his role at Vance focuses on getting airplanes in the air and back down on the ground safely. “What I find most interesting about my job is maximizing pilot training. Given that our airspace is limited.”

Vance has some of the busiest runways in the Air Force. It provides a unique challenge for Airmen across the board. “Our airspace is really dynamic given we have student air traffic controllers working with student pilots,” said Ochs. “That provides a challenge in itself.’

With approximately 12,000 square miles of airspace to control, it is a recipe that requires a good amount of attention. “We have to watch what we are doing to ensure that everything works right,” said Ochs.

Ochs’s ability to be a mentor and give guidance for younger Airmen sets him apart from the rest, said Capt. Mackenzie Wamhoff, the 71st OSS airfield operations flight commander.

“His influence extends beyond his role here in Radar Approach Control,” said Wamhoff. “He is a super key person. Both civilians and Airmen come to him for mentorship and guidance. I think it is safe to say he is heavily relied on here.”

Ochs credits Team Vance for making it possible to earn the ATC manager of the year. “I couldn’t do what I do without support from the wing commander on down to the newest three-level air traffic controllers that come through the door,” said Ochs. “I’ve learned something from everybody, so for me, Team Vance won this award.”

Ochs wants to stay and help out the Air Force in any way he can. “As an air traffic controller, we have a time limit to work in this career field,” said Ochs. “If the Air Force wants to keep me, I will be more than happy to stay.”