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Aviano NCO receives top watch award

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- An Aviano technical sergeant closes the door on his Aviano tenure but not without clinching top honors at the Air Force level.

Tech. Sgt. Corey Bowen, 31st Operations Support Squadron watch supervisor, received the Air Force Watch Supervisor of the Year award.

“As a watch supervisor, you have to monitor all the [aircraft and tower] frequencies and positions,” Sergeant Bowen said. “You’re ensuring nothing abnormal is happening because you’ll be the first person they’re coming to if it does.”

Watch supervisors and controllers like Sergeant Bowen have task of ensuring safe operations of commercial and private aircraft. Controllers coordinate the movements of thousands of aircraft, keep them at safe distances from each other, direct them during takeoffs, landings, and around bad weather and ensure that air traffic flows smoothly with minimal delays.

“I’ve seen a big change in the Air Force,” he said. “While we’re doing more with less, the quality of people is improving.”

Sergeant Bowen said the personnel in his career field know all about working long hours. He couldn’t pinpoint exactly why he won the award, but he does laud his leadership for recognizing their people by submitting them for awards.

While deployed, he filled a chief master sergeant’s billet, during the chief’s four-day absence and directed air traffic control operations at Ali Air Base, Iraq. Sergeant Bowen also directed initial search actions for a downed British C-130 and helped locate the crash site within hours.

Sergeant Bowen’s leadership was also noted during an unpredicted radar outage in Iraq -- his calm demeanor enabled the ATC team to stay focused and avoided more than 130 aircraft catastrophes over central Iraq.

“As a whole, we put in some long hours in our career field,” he said. “We’re low-manned, and we’re working twice as hard.”

As coalition team leader, Sergeant Bowen led 24 controllers in the busiest ATC complex downrange. Together they moved more than 74,000 aircraft on five airfields and kept Baghdad Airport open. He also recovered a damaged C-12 by rerouting three low fuel aircraft to arrive behind it.

Sergeant Bowen’s influence was also noted locally. He consolidated local ATC area information and created a computerized training resource.