Second family: 50 years have passed since the Southern ATC Unit was established near Ramon AFB. The unit manages the IAF’s operational activity and its trainings in southern Israel. The unit’s commanders over the years discuss the greatest moments and emphasize the familial feeling, which makes it so special
The Southern ATC Unit celebrated 50 years of operational activity in the IAF. “Those who are experts in operating the aerial forces know that the ATC Unit has big roles, other than being an extra pair of eyes”, said Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, IAF Commander, in the ceremony. “The division connects all the components of the IAF to a whole that is strong and diverse in many theaters and in many missions. Standing guard and operating abilities, foreseeing possible developments and giving an efficient and on time response, are the most essential activities of a division operating in the most crowded operational aerial space in the world”.
Photo by: Idan Eldar
“The Southern ATC Unit has an important role in the execution of the IAF’s operational abilities and fitness – in defense, attack, carrying out IAF missions and synchronization in the aerial space”, said Col. Eran, Commander of the ATC division. “The responsibility given to those that serve in the unit is huge. It requires preparedness, sharpness, availability and readiness at all times. The cost of an error is unbearable. I have been given a great privilege to command the Southern ATC Unit, the unit I grew up in as a controller, where I spent most of my adult years with people I call family”.
In honor of the historical journey, we spoke with commanders from the past about operational activity alongside friendships.
The same rhythm
Col. (res) Uzi Rom, who commanded the ATC Unit during the end of the 70’s and beginning of the 80’s, and later became the commander of the division, remembers a significant event.
“The event that I will never forget was the attack and destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor during 1981 operation ‘Opera’. Our ATC Unit was responsible for overlooking the attack and during it, we were on high alert for guarding the ATC. Following the event we were sure that we would be attacked in retaliation, thus we were on alert for two whole months and the shifts doubled. Everyone gave a shoulder: mandatory service controllers, reserve controller and emergency placements, without a single complaint, everyone understood the mission and completed it successfully. It was a time where everyone felt the importance of their job”.
Lt. Col. Aviad, the current ATC Unit Commander, emphasizes that the southern aerial space is the most fundamental space in the IAF. “We control the most crowded aerial space in the country and in the world. The last operations brought the division to an all-time high, both in a professional matter, by managing a crowded aerial space in a safe and operational manner and in a personal way. The division’s personnel leave their jobs, studies, families and even pregnant wives and arrive whenever they were needed”.
One of the Southern ATC’s most prominent features is the familial feeling it has maintained for years. Many testify the Southern ATC Unit is like their second family, many commanders even share that they met their wives when they served as young controllers in the division. “I believe that our strength as a division is hidden in our spirit and our connection to one another”, shared Lt. Col. Aviad. “The ATC Unit is an operational unit that is a family”.