337 ACS: WST Airmen Secure Freedom of the Skies

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anabel Del Valle
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.—The U.S. enjoys “Freedom of the skies” through our superiority, which secures freedom from attack and freedom to attack while denying adversaries a similar advantage. To achieve total superiority, there is a total team effort both in the skies and on the ground.

Helping to develop mission ready Airmen is the 337th Air Control Squadron, whose primary duty is to produce air battle managers for the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Working behind the scenes to help make this happen is Airman 1st Class Austin Mills, a weapons simulation technician in the 337th ACS.

In order to proficiently teach ABM students the challenging task of identifying enemy aircraft in the sky, defensive and offensive counter air operations, close air support and more, there is a team of weapon simulation technicians ensuring the students receive the most realistic training possible.

“Our team gives the ABM students real-world scenarios they may face down range,” explained Mills. “We host simulations using 4th and 5th generation fighter tactics for ABM students to get comfortable accessing and communicating information to pilots under pressure.”

Since ABM students are expected to provide pilots with situational awareness of their surroundings, including detection of any possible enemy aircraft, they provide critical support during wartime operations.

“The most challenging part of being a WST is learning how to communicate with the proper brevity,” said Mills. “WSTs often simulate pilots during instruction so we must understand the phrases that pilots use. Communicating as a real pilot is [critical] to the training students receive.”

Mills says the most rewarding part of being a WST is knowing he is playing a part in training the best air battle managers the world has to offer, something he never saw in his life plans. Mills has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, which he planned to use to start his career.

After college graduation in August 2020, he decided it was best to join the Air Force for stability as society adjusted to COVID-19. He has since been awarded Airman of the Quarter by the Air Force Sergeants Association and formally coined by U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, the former 19th Air Force commander, for excelling beyond his peers.

“I realized I enjoyed the simulation and controlled aspect of things and now I am trying to commission [and become] an officer,” said Mills. “This job has shaped me into a better leader and inspired me in many ways. I know I am a better person than I was before I joined. I want to give that same sense of purpose to those that come after me.”