Inside the 103rd Air Control Squadron

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tamara Dabney
  • 103rd Public Affairs

The mission of the United States Air Force can be expressed in what has become a well-known mantra: ‘Fly, Fight, Win,’ but how is this phrase converted into action? Establishing air superiority and winning the air war begins with Airmen, such as those stationed with the 103rd Air Control Squadron in Orange, CT, who control the air war from their ground based command and control radar system.

Aircraft were first used as weapons of war in the early 20th century. In the first air wars, pilots had no way of knowing where their enemies were located and were often gunned down before they knew the location of enemy pilots. Loosely controlled air traffic also made flying especially dangerous. Today, aerial warfare is controlled by airborne and ground based command and control (C2) units such as the 103rd ACS. With the latest technology, Air Control Squadrons provide commanders with real-time detection, identification and surveillance of air traffic and C2 of joint operations during worldwide contingencies. 

The AN/TYQ-23A Tactical Air Operations Module (TAOM) is one of the newest and most advanced weapons systems of its kind. Before an Air Control Squadron (ACS) can deploy a system in a real-world scenario, the unit must conduct extensive training on the system to prove its capabilities, identify its limitations, and gain situational awareness on theater specific operations procedures. This past June, the 103rd ACS, known as “Yankee Watch,” became one of the first units in the Air Force to successfully test the AN/TYQ-23A in field conditions during their Annual Field Training in Sea Girt, New Jersey. With professional transport from the 1048th MTC, the 103rd ACS was able to deploy all of its equipment from Orange, Ct to Sea Girt N.J and set up in a tactical environment, force multiplying in a “purple” joint effort.

“Our annual training at Sea Girt is a proof of concept”, said Lt. Col. Glenn Sherman, the 103rd Air Control Squadron Deputy Commander. “It’s all about training. Down here, this is by far the best event for us to get our maintainers, communicators and operators trained.  They’re exercising multiple deployment phases from mobilizing equipment, performing convoy transport, conducting site set-up, executing operations, and subsequently re-deploying back to home station. 

Air Control Squadrons differs from most other Air Force units because they are self-sustaining; ACS members work across twenty different Air Force specialties, and provide their own inherent technical, communications, cyber and maintenance support to provide operators with combat command and control capabilities. Radar maintainers, Air Battle Manager, Surveillance Technicians, Weapons Controllers, Vehicle and AGE Maintainers,  Cyber Operators, Computer Maintenance Technicians, Admin, Logistics and Supply experts are just a few of the duty titles held by ACS personnel. Using advanced technology and skills, ACS Airmen provide 21st Century pilots the ability to see the enemy coming from anywhere in the world.   

ACS provides the eyes of the combat environment. What isn’t common knowledge is that those eyes often belong to Airmen who may be only two years removed from high school. According to Lt. Col. John Sorgini, 103rd Air Control Squadron Commander, another unique feature that sets the ACS apart from other squadrons is that Airmen who are new to the Air Force, some of them teenagers, are entrusted with high level responsibilities that have significant impact on operations. Young Airmen who are assigned to ACS units are key to enabling the Air Force to fly, fight, and win. 

“It’s one of the few squadrons, I feel, in the Air Force, that allows that level of junior impact at an early stage,” said Sorgini. “It’s often a 19-year-old airmen on the radio controlling the air war.  With the technical and operational AFSCs and career specialties that we have, there are few organizations in the Air Force that allow young troops that level of direct impact on actual combat operations.”

The 103rd ACS is actively recruiting.  If you, or someone you know is interested in becoming a member of the 103rd ACS, contact your local Connecticut Air National Guard Recruiter at 1-800-992-4793.  Commissioning opportunities are also available by accessing the 103rd Airlift Wing web page at for exciting careers as an Air Battle Manager or Communications Information Systems Officer.