How to Become an Army Air Traffic Controller

By: Chris Opfer

Tips for Becoming an Army Air Traffic Controller

If you're a college student considering a career as an Army air traffic controller, ROTC can be very beneficial to you.
If you're a college student considering a career as an Army air traffic controller, ROTC can be very beneficial to you.
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

The U.S. Army's air traffic controller program gives people the opportunity to serve in the military while developing the skills and experience necessary to become an ATC both in uniform and as civilian. It's no surprise the program is competitive, so here are a few tips for becoming an Army air traffic controller.

  • Stay in school. The Army requires that a person has earned a high school diploma to enlist, and in most cases, a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is not sufficient. A soldier must pass an aptitude test to qualify for ATC training and again to serve as an air traffic controller.
  • Get in shape. In addition to the Army's basic physical and medical enlistment requirements, ATCs must satisfy the Army's Class 4 medical fitness standards, have normal color vision and be able to frequently lift more than 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and occasionally lift more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms).
  • Consider ROTC. College students considering a career as an Army ATC can take basic and advanced ROTC courses while in school. Those who enroll in the advanced program are eligible for scholarships and are required to serve in the Army following graduation. Graduates of the ROTC program are commissioned as Second Lieutenants -- a rank higher than the Warrant Officers who enter the Army without a ROTC background -- and begin specialized training in their field immediately following basic training.
  • Lay off the booze and drugs. Drug and alcohol use not only make it more difficult to meet the minimum medical and fitness requirements of the Army -- and in particular the tough physical demands of basic training -- they're also automatic disqualifiers from the Army ATC training program.

Not all soldiers become air traffic controllers, but for those who do, the opportunity comes with great responsibility. ATCs are tasked with keeping the skies safe for both military personnel and the hundreds of thousands of people who fly each day. Learn more about air traffic control and life in the U.S. Army by checking out the links below.


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  • American Forces Press Service. "Face of Defense: Air Traffic Controller Fulfills Long-Term Plans." Sept. 5, 2008. (April 13, 2011)
  • Federal Aviation Administration. "Air Route Traffic Control Centers." April 28, 2010 (April 14, 2011)
  • Federal Aviation Administration. "Controller Workforce-A Plan for the Future." June 29, 2009. (April 14, 2011)
  • Federal Aviation Administration. "How to Become an Air Traffic Control Specialist." March 27, 2008. (April 14, 2011)
  • Federal Aviation Administration. "Keeping America's Skies Safe." Sept. 21, 2009. (April 14, 2011)
  • Federal Aviation Administration. "Pay, Benefits, & Training." Jan. 13, 2010. (April 14, 2011)
  • Federal Aviation Administration."Pre-Employment Testing." March 14, 2008 (April 14, 2011)
  • The Fort Campbell Courier. "Air traffic controllers: penguins of the Army." Nov. 11, 2010. (April 14, 2011)
  • U.S. Army. "Basic Combat Training." (April 14, 2011)
  • U.S. Army. "Careers & Jobs: Air Traffic Control (ATC) Operator (15Q)." (April 13, 2011)
  • U.S. Army. "For Parents." (April 14, 2011)
  • U.S. Army. "MOS 15Q: Air Traffic Control Operator." (April 13, 2011)
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  • U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs Office. "U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers Train to Earn FAA Certification." (April 13, 2011)
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition." (April 13, 2011)
  • United States Diplomatic Clearance and Landing Authorization Procedures. "Army Regulation 95-2: Air Traffic Control, Airspace, Airfields, Flight Activities, and Navigational Aid." (April 13, 2011)