For my typical readers, this article will depart from my usual leadership centered topics and will instead focus on a functional role. My professional community (Port Dawgs) are a wild bunch that will no doubt eviscerate me if this article is dumb, so I must approach this topic like I do everything else…just spit it out and see what happens. My best-case scenario is it provides a viewpoint that creates conversations and that conversation turns into action. Worst-case scenario is they will call me an idiot (which is not the worst thing I’ve been called). Either way, let’s get rid of ATOC.
The internet is a game-changer. Or at least is was a game-changer in 1990 but somehow, I don’t believe we have fully taken advantage of this monumental opportunity. It is long overdue for us to do so. ATOC is something the internet could have replaced with some shifting in tasks and a little flexibility. Not the ATOC flight (cape forecasting, load planning, etc.), the section. The first charge of ATOC is to be the command and control (C2) of the Aerial Port. It has been ages since this was the case in reality. We have established SOEs that the sections adhere to and for the majority of the time they are autonomous. They need very little C2 from ATOC.
Let’s start with the inbound and outbound controllers. Keep in mind these are general functions found at most large ports. All squadrons would need to adjust it a bit to make it work. Each section in the port has a dispatcher if they work on the flightline. And everyone has access to GATES. Because of this, all sections usually skip ATOC and get aircraft info on their own. This has been happening for a long time and now we have GATES that will usually feed us this info. Easily we can eliminate these functions.
Senior Controller. The senior controller position used to be quite valuable, especially in the absence of the Duty Officer (DO). They run the control center and ensure all the controllers are doing what they are supposed to do. But if we eliminate the other controller positions the senior controller position is pointless.
Duty Officer. The duty officer position is important. We do need a position with actual authority to make decisions and advocate on behalf of the Aerial Port. Provide two or more depending on local needs to ensure they are not overwhelmed with the additional work. Put them in a mobile workstation inside a truck with a radio, smartphone, tablet, and laptop so they are always connected to the unit’s needs. We also need a 24/7 point of contact for the 618 AOC or APCC to contact for emergent requirements such as MICAP, HRs, etc. Additionally, we would transfer the Ramp controller’s responsibilities to the DO. They would take the paperwork to the crew, brief them, and ensure the uploads are going well. They would also be responsible to coordinate with Command Post and Maintenance. Times will need to be input by the section dispatchers and ATOC will no longer need to deal with the Form 77. Data Records will be responsible for checking the 77 (if we even need a 77). This will put the pressure on the dispatchers to ensure they have quality dispatchers. On a side note, why don’t we have a formal dispatcher’s course? I’ll look into that…
Local management will determine where to align the DO and the few other sections in the ATOC flight operationally and administratively.
Clearly, there are many items I haven’t addressed but this isn’t intended to be an all-encompassing solution. It is intended to start the conversation. It’s time to put a working group together so we can talk about how to actually utilize the leaps in technology we are seeing instead of simply converting paper documents to electronic documents and leaving our processes the same.