TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- It's 12:30 a.m. in the command post and a radio mounted on Tech. Sgt. Lakesha Bailey's console lights up and blasts without warning thru the speaker, "Exercise, Exercise, Exercise, Sooner Control, this is Okie 34 we are declaring a in-flight emergency and request emergency personnel and fire rescue at runway three zero zero. We have four souls on board." The calm but deliberate response from Sergeant Bailey is, "Copy all, working."
This aircraft emergency response scenario is not uncommon for the guard and reserve command post controllers and is just one aspect of the type of work these Airmen perform daily, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
A crew of 10 guard and reserve personnel makes up this unique command post team which works in 12 hour shifts serving as the epicenter of information for the 507th and 137th Air Refueling Wings. The "Sooner Control" command post is the only co-located guard and reserve command post with a nuclear mission in the Air Force.
"We are a full-time, 24/7 command and control node, directly responsible to the commander and serve as the focal point of operations," said Master Sgt. Bryan Chamberlain, 507th ARW command post superintendent. "Our team executes command directives in support of homeland security, national defense, and Air Force operations."
Command post controllers man a console which is integrated with computers, radios, telephones and alerting systems. Right next to the controllers are hundreds of checklists detailing various actions from tornado emergency response to nuclear event actions.
"I take seriously the responsibility of directing nuclear response to enemy threats and possibly saving the lives of the American people and those I love," said Sergeant Bailey, 507th ARW command post controller and training manager. "Responding quickly to any type of emergency can make the difference between life and death.
The 507th and 137th Air Refueling Wings operate the KC-135 Stratotanker and can be called up at a moment's notice to refuel other aircraft defending the U.S. or its allies. Any notification of this nature would come straight to the Sooner Control command post and direct to Baileys console.
Controllers arrive 15 minutes before their shifts to receive the changeover briefing, conduct inventory and security checks according to Bailey. Their day to day duties consist of flight following aircraft, submitting operational reports, dissemination of weather warnings/watches, and emergency actions.
The Sooner Control command post team has a lot of day to day responsibilities but the overall theme of their duties is responding to emergencies. If there is an in-flight emergency the controllers are the first to respond, the first to get the help and the first to notify the command.
"I love the number one purpose of a controller which is to receive, decode, and respond to emergency action messages." Bailey said. "It's great being part of this joint team making it happen."