Controller commemorated with 40 years of ATC

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Davis Donaldson
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Walter Boltwood, Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) controller, celebrated 40 accumulated years of air traffic control with friends and family at the ATC tower on January 7, 2021, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.

To help commemorate the significant occasion, Boltwood remotely cleared Lt. Col. Jennifer Prouty, 14th Operations Support Squadron commander, for take-off.

Boltwood said there were ups, downs and challenges to get to this point his career, one of which being the attacks on 9/11, but with the help of others he managed to face and overcome the obstacles along the way.

“I was the RAPCON watch supervisor the morning of the horrific events, securing the airspace and ensuring no other aircraft were able to penetrate our airspace,” Boltwood said. “Our ATC team acted professionally, preparing for the continued protection of our freedom from terrorists ruining the mission. The support of my co-workers, supervisors and leadership helped in overcoming my challenges throughout the years.”

Boltwood, originally from Long Island, New York, started his career at Columbus AFB in June of 1980.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Boltwood said he lead his team with positivity and remained calm. With the attacks being so close to Boltwood’s home, Boltwood said it took a lot of courage to lead during that morning.

“I led with a positive thought process,” Boltwood said. “Also, being from the metro-New York area along with having family around the Pentagon area, it was hard. We didn’t know what the terrorists’ next move was going to be, I was just ready for the next call.”

Boltwood would help secure the airspace at Columbus AFB on 9/11 and continued to do so for 20 years.

After Boltwood retired from the service in February of 2002, he decided he wanted to continue his career in ATC at Columbus AFB, but as a civilian worker.

“To stay in Columbus was the obvious choice and I haven’t regretted my decision at all,” Boltwood said. “We’re one of the busiest facilities in the Air Force and I’ve always enjoyed the challenge, personnel and comradery we have instilled here.”

Two of Boltwood’s friends attending the anniversary were Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Albert Bordelon and Ret. U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Fredrick Sumner.

Both Bordelon and Sumner described what it was like to work with Boltwood.

Sumner said Boltwood made an impact on everyone he worked with, including those above him.

“He was conscientious, dedicated and worked hard to carry out every duty assigned to him,” Sumner said. “He never failed to give 100 percent to achieve the very best results possible. He was well respected by the chief of air traffic control operations, the tower chief controller and staff.”

Bordelon had Boltwood as a subordinate and described him as a very personable and energetic airman who was eager to learn.

“I worked with Mr. Boltwood in the early 80s when he was a young airman in the old Columbus Control Tower,” Bordelon said. “He had no trouble grasping air traffic control principles and applying them in a professional manner. Walt is well-deserving of recognition for his outstanding 40 years of service to the U.S. Air Force, especially at Columbus AFB.”