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Senior Airman air traffic controller becomes a ‘chief’

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- During the day, he scans the sky in his crisply pressed camouflage uniform as a 325th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller. 

But at night, he looks up and talks to the "sky" in a pair of costume pajamas at a staged psychiatric ward in the Martin Theatre in downtown Panama City. 

Pilots hear Senior Airman Chris Allen's voice over the radio just as loud and clear as the audience does during his theatrical performances. 

Airman Allen hopes to make his part-time hobby a full-time reality one day. Recently, he took his talent to the theater to act as Chief Bromden in the play "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." It wasn't his first time on stage; he's also performed in "Damn Yankees," which was his first play, at the Kaleidoscope Theater in Lynn Haven in May.
Recently, the control tower he works in became the stage for one of the new Air Force commercials, aired online Sept. 18 at www.dosomethingamazing.com. 

"We never get tired of seeing the planes take off with the afterburners - it's a pretty cool thing to see," he said in the advertisement about his Air Force career. 

On stage he speaks with many more words, especially with long monologues in the warm spotlight as he acted as Chief Bromden, a Native American, who converses with his deceased father about life, the mistreatment of people and the psychiatric ward environment. 

"It's just like job training. You have to take it very seriously," he said about the time he spent memorizing his lines. "It was the greatest experience being able to learn from the director and to be around other actors." 

On the job, Airman Allen trains future air traffic controllers and has to be consistent with everything he does. 

"He teaches and treats all personnel in training the same, regardless of their personal interests outside of work," said Staff Sgt. Ra'Sean Davis, 325th OSS tower watch supervisor. 

"He is a really hard worker and a good trainer," said Sergeant Davis.  "He makes sure his trainees get what they need and more. I feel he has served his country and is now going after his dreams."  

As a graduate of an arts high school in Nashville, Tenn., Airman Allen always had a creative idea for his future in the back of his mind. However, it wasn't until he was assigned here to his first operational duty location, that he pursued acting and has grown to love it. 

"I have seven months to decide my future in the Air Force," said Airman Allen. "I'll probably be heading to California if I separate to pursue acting."