Civilian ATC applicants who do not have professional air traffic control training experience undergo paid training (if offered employment by the FAA) at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Academy offers training in both terminal operation -- managing the takeoff and landing of planes at airports -- and en route air traffic control. Training includes classroom instruction and simulated exercises. Courses run about eight and a half hours a day for a number of weeks, depending on the program [source: FAA].
Army ATCs first go through 10 weeks of basic training, the rigorous soldier training program that Uncle Sam says "transforms civilians into Soldiers" and which all Army recruits must complete. The program includes physical fitness and team-building exercises, tactical and engagement skills development and weapons training [source: U.S. Army].
Basic training is followed by 15 weeks of specialized air traffic control training, one of the longest occupational training courses the Army offers, at Fort Rucker in Dothan, Ala. The program combines classroom instruction and fieldwork under simulated combat conditions to develop skills such as takeoff, landing and ground control procedures, aircraft recognition and radar operation. A recently developed program allows Army officers to also earn FAA Control Tower Operators Certification by working in a civilian air traffic control tower for six to eight months while on active duty [source: U.S. Army, American Forces Press Service].
While Army ATCs are charged with managing the flow of air traffic, they nevertheless remain soldiers at all times. On its Web site, the Army cautions recruits' parents that "a soldier's job comes with a certain level of risk...some soldiers are asked to serve in dangerous situations." Many ATCs work in the theater of war, controlling air traffic in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are trained to perform their duties under combat conditions [source: U.S. Army].
If becoming an Army air traffic controller interests you, the next page offers a few tips to help make your interest a reality.