The first time Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Justin Brown served aboard NAS Patuxent River, he was promoted to Petty Officer 1st Class; now, a decade later — during his second tour here — he’s been named Commander, Navy Installations Command Air Traffic Controller of the Year.
“AC1 Brown has earned total trust and respect, not only as a Facility Watch Supervisor and leader, but also as the only first class petty officer to simultaneously hold the positions of Tower Branch Chief and Flight Planning Branch Chief,” said Pax River Commanding Officer Capt. Scott Starkey. “He has exceeded all expectations of a first class petty officer and an air traffic controller.”
As Flight Planning Branch Chief, Brown is directly responsible for his branch’s operational readiness and productivity while guiding the personal development of 75 E7-and-below Sailors and 10 civilian controllers.
Brown’s comprehensive knowledge and understanding of facility operations and management resulted in the Flight Planning Branch receiving a perfect score with zero discrepancies during the 2016 NATOPS evaluation; and his dedication to ATC success resulted in 215 professional qualifications and designations within the facility, significantly enhancing watch team capability and ensuring mission accomplishment.
Even with his many accomplishments, Brown was still surprised to learn he won the award.
“I knew they put me in for it, but with all of the talented controllers out there in CNIC, I never expected to win it,” he said. “I do my job because I love talking to planes and training Sailors and I want everyone to succeed. I didn’t think doing my job would get me any type of award. I do it because I love it — and the award is just icing on the cake.”
Pax River’s airfield — serving the research, development, test and evaluation community — is unique in the complexity of traffic it manages. This past year alone, more than 60,000 flight operations were carried out. If it flies, it probably flies here.
“There are so many different types of aircraft and speeds, and so many projects in development,” Brown noted. “We’re the test bed of the fleet and it’s a very complicated and tough place to be. If you can control airplanes here and get fully qualified, you can do it anywhere.”
Working with civilians at Pax is another uncommon advantage of the job.
“There’s a definite benefit to working with prior-military civilians who’ve been doing it a lot longer; they’re friends and mentors and I’ve learned a lot from each one of them,” Brown said. “Then it’s my job to pass that down to my junior Sailors who are training and learning, because I remember being on the other side of it when I was a young Sailor.”
Most of Brown’s family had served in the military, and he continued the tradition by joining the Navy in 1998.
“Initially, I planned to put in my time, then get out and maybe be a lawyer,” he noted. “I chose ATC because I thought it looked challenging and might be something I would enjoy. I fell in love with it and feel blessed to have picked this job. I wouldn’t have stayed in if I was any other rating. Being here [at Pax River], you get to see firsthand that it’s an amazing job to have. I also couldn’t have done it without the support of my family.”
With the CNIC honor, Brown now serves as the nominee for the prestigious Vice Adm. Robert P. Pirie Air Traffic Controller of the Year award, presented for outstanding contributions to operational readiness and safety applied by individual Navy and Marine Corps air traffic controllers worldwide.