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39th RAWS: Ensuring flight safety

A closeup of a an Airman's hand fixing a delicate part of a radio

An Airman assigned to the 39th Operations Support Squadron corrects frequency settings at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 23, 2021. RAWS Airmen are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining flightline communication systems, which ensure air traffic controllers and pilots can communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

Two seated Airmen repair radio equipment on a workbench

Airman First Class Sean Bradford (Left) and Jesse Alberico (Right), 39th Operations Support Squadron radar, airfield and weather systems technicians, perform maintenance on a radio transmitter at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 23, 2021. RAWS Airmen are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining flightline communication systems, which ensure air traffic controllers and pilots can communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

An Airman works with a piece of radio equipment

An Airman assigned to the 39th Operations Support Squadron corrects frequency settings at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 23, 2021. RAWS Airmen are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining flightline communication systems, which ensure air traffic controllers and pilots can communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

A RAWS Airman carries a box of parts to a storage shelf

Airman First Class Jesse Alberico, 39th Operations Support Squadron radar, airfield and weather systems technician, transports a radio transmitter at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 23, 2021. RAWS Airmen are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining flightline communication systems, which ensure air traffic controllers and pilots can communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

A RAWS Airman works to fix an wall-mounted radio transmitter

Airman First Class Sean Bradford, 39th Operations Support Squadron radar, airfield and weather systems technician, checks a radio transmitter at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 23, 2021. RAWS Airmen are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining flightline communication systems, which ensure air traffic controllers and pilots can communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

Incirlik Air Base, Turkey -- Not being able to talk with an air traffic control tower can be a deadly endeavor for an aircraft trying to takeoff or land.

Effective Air Force operations require quality communication, and it’s especially critical for any flying mission. The 39th Operations Support Squadron play a critical role in that mission, and it’s the Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems flight who have the responsibility of installing, repairing and maintaining the communication systems used on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base.

RAWS technicians are vital to the installation and maintenance of the detection, signaling and radio equipment that every air field tower and flightline relies on to function safely and smoothly.

“We work with a digital airport surveillance radar, then we have radios, which there are different kinds for the pilots and air traffic control,” said Senior Airman Julius Johnson, 39th OSS RAWS technician. ”We [also maintain] instrument landing systems and navigation systems that let the pilots know when they are off either horizontally or vertically and weather systems that will give pilots information like wind speed.”

Master Sgt. Denton Soucie, 39th OSS ATC tower chief controller, said RAWS is a critical aspect of air traffic. If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be workable radios to communicate with aircraft or navigation systems that are essential to getting aircraft from Incirlik to accomplish the mission down range.

“They do all the maintenance, so if it wasn’t for them working day in and day out to make sure that the equipment is working, and a lot of the equipment here is legacy style where they are constantly working to ensure we can accomplish the mission,” Soucie said.” They are a very critical piece of that.”

This year, the Airmen of the 39th OSS will start the process of replacing 80 year-old radios with new, state-of-the-art radios that are expected to reduce man-hours devoted to maintenance and increase communication capabilities.

“The new radios improve the communication between the aircraft and ATC for clearer guidance and lessens the chance of misunderstood messages, which bolsters flight safety,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Culbreth, 39th OSS RAWS supervisor. “There are approximately eight times the amount of channels that we can use so it allows for increased flexibility of communications.”

A flight line can be a dangerous place, yet these Airmen working in the background, behind the roar of jet engines and under the watchful eyes of the control tower, help keep the business of flying, fighting and winning safer. With ongoing missions around the globe, RAWS Airmen may not fly, but they help enable communications and safety that facilitate global reach and mobility to accomplish USAF and NATO partner’s missions.