19th OSS Airman wins AMC air traffic control trainer award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Maria Umanzor Guzman
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Air traffic controllers shoulder the responsibility of managing the flow of aircraft through all aspects of flight while also ensuring the safety and efficiency of air traffic on the ground and in the air.

For Senior Airman Zakari LeBlanc, 19th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, his passion to mentor and develop the next generation of air traffic controllers who shoulder this responsibility led to his recent recognition as Air Mobility Command’s 2021 Air Traffic Control Trainer of the Year.

“It’s pretty rewarding seeing your effort being put into trainees, and in turn, them displaying it on their own,” said LeBlanc. “Not only is it helpful to them and the mission, but it’s also inspiring.”

As an ATC trainer, LeBlanc is responsible for mentoring trainees on how to navigate aircraft that are flying locally, ensuring the safety of all Airmen in the air and on the flightline.

In just over a year, LeBlanc was able to get four trainees rated; a process that typically takes eight months to a year for a single Airman. In order for trainees to get rated, they are required to execute all tasks within a performance standards list, a knowledge standards list, and successfully accomplish simulations in order to demonstrate proficiency in controlling.

“There’s a fine line between overstepping with the trainees and allowing them to battle through their calls, and providing service to the pilots,” LeBlanc said. “When there are trainees who struggle,  sometimes you just need to show some empathy and motivate them to help them get to the solution on their own.”

While LeBlanc takes great pride in his job, his greatest joy of being an ATC trainer comes from watching his trainees demonstrate their newfound abilities to adapt to challenging situations with decisive actions.

“Whenever you train somebody in a job like this, it’s pretty difficult,” said LeBlanc. “With the current runway construction going on, we have different separation requirements so it’s always constantly evolving, adding another layer of complexity.”

LeBlanc added that the mentorship he received from his leadership helped motivate him during the process of becoming a trainer and played an integral role in all of his accomplishments.

 “When you have so many people around you that are constantly pushing and supporting you to become better and do more, it makes my job easy,” he said.

Master Sgt. Patrick Howard, 19th OSS assistant chief controller, is one of LeBlanc’s mentors who helped shape him into the Airman and trainer he is today.

“Senior Airman LeBlanc is top notch, one of the best that we have,” said Howard. “He’s our go-to trainer, and Airmen working on associated projects that link to training.”

Due to a new program allowing junior enlisted Airmen to conduct standards and evaluations training, LeBlanc became the first at LRAFB to become a certified ATC trainer as a senior airman.

“Training is a really crucial thing for us,” said Howard. “And LeBlanc is a team player who not only performs above his level, but ensures that everybody else is up-to-date on their training as well.”