Creating Order Out of Chaos
By Airman 1st Class Dustin Mullen, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 19, 2015
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In today's warfighting environment, all of the pieces of the battlefield must come together like a puzzle in order to accomplish the mission. The people who help put that puzzle together are air battle managers.
Training undergraduate ABMs is a mission the 337th Air Control Squadron does not take lightly. With a grueling nine-month course of study, incoming ABM students are tested both mentally and physically with academic work, positional events, and long, challenging days.
"We are the formal training unit for all of America's total force air battle managers," said Lt. Col. Michael Hagan, 337th ACS commander. "Within a challenging 170 training day course, we produce world-class graduates."
In December 1947, Headquarters U.S. Air Force established the 325th Weapons Controller Training Squadron. It was responsible for the aircraft controllers course at Tyndall.
Between 1947 and 2001 the squadron went through several name changes and eventually settled as the 325th Air Control Squadron. The mission at the 325th ACS was to teach command and control and radar operations to personnel of all ranks. It evolved into a comprehensive program instructing command and control to American and international officers impacting air campaigns around the world.
In October 2012 the 325th FW transferred from Air Education and Training Command to Air Combat Command. At that time the 325th ACS was designated the 337 ACS and remained in AETC as a geographically separated unit of the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
"Irrespective of MAJCOM patch, we aspire to remain a dedicated member of Team Tyndall," Hagan said. "Our missions are solidly integrated, and we truly appreciate the constant support from Team Tyndall to our Airmen and families."
Students at the 337th ACS learn a variety of skills allowing them to direct airborne assets across the spectrum of combat operations.
"As ABMs we synchronize weapon sensors and fuel in accordance with the commander's intent and acceptable levels of risk," said Hagan. "In a general sense, we create order out of chaos.
"The men and women of the ACS will instruct over 130 U.S. and international students this fiscal year. In order to meet the needs of the combat air forces, that number is expected to increase in upcoming years," said Hagan.
Along with American ABMs, the squadron brings in international students to help strengthen working relationships and maximize effectiveness world-wide.
"We instruct two courses for our international partners; the International Air Weapons Controller Course and the Theater Air Operations Course," Hagan said. "These courses facilitate mutual understanding among U.S. and international operators.
"This partnership is strategically beneficial in terms of fostering relationships and common understanding when working together in an uncertain world," he continued.
"As a nation, we rarely do anything alone, so these relationships are strategically valuable," said Hagan. "We train approximately 35 international students per year from a diverse pool of 64 nations."
Hagan is also an Air Battle Manager with more than 16 years of experience.
"It seems like yesterday I walked through these doors myself -- and so much has changed since I came through as a student," Hagan recalled. "The syllabus has been refined dramatically; the context of the world has changed immensely. It's a very difficult course, and it has to be in order to produce a world-class graduate that can perform the functions of an ABM."
First Lt. Joshua Williams, a current ABM student with the 337th ACS, is close to graduation and is in the final stage of training.
"Right now I am in the eighth block of training, which is sometimes referred to as our capstone," said Williams. "At this point a student has all of the knowledge and tools to control live fighter aircraft and perform as an ABM."
For Williams, the hardest part of training was the academically intense blocks that required students to learn a vast amount of information in a very short period of time, he said.
As he looked back on his time in the course, Williams had a few words of wisdom for incoming students and those currently still in the course.
"It can be a long course; people get really wrapped up in themselves and lose the team aspect," he said. "The best thing you can do is work together as a class and focus on passing together."