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RAF Mildenhall airfield earns high marks during inspection

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- RAF Mildenhall Airmen recently proved they are among the best in the Air Force when they scored an "Outstanding" rating from a U.S. Air Forces in Europe inspection team during a recent air-traffic system evaluation program inspection. 

An ATSEP is like a unit-compliance inspection or an operational-readiness inspection tailored specifically to test the quality and efficiency of a base's airfield. It ensures airfields stay safe. 

While the ATSEP inspection team scoured the airfield operations (which includes the 100th Operations Support Squadron's air traffic control tower, airfield management and weather offices), it also tested the mettle of units that support the airfield, like the 100th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 100th Communications Squadron. 

"The airfield as an operation was evaluated and then all the systems that directly support the airfield - lightning, generators, markings and navigational aids," Senior Master Sgt. Mike Kossover said. "They inspect the airfield itself like you would inspect a dorm room, and they inspect the people who support the airfield systems throughout."
Every unit involved in the inspection scored well on it. 

"The team chief of the inspection said that in his four years, we scored in the top two during that period of time," said Capt. Chris Smith, 100th Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Control flight commander. "To get an 'Outstanding', you have to have zero observations. It's not easy." 

The units prepared for the inspection since the last ATSEP two years ago. That was one of the keys to their success. 

"After the first day, it was evident that all our big programs, all our special-interest items were (in order)," Sergeant Kossover said. "And, they determined those were pretty much satisfactory the first day. I've been through 20-plus ATSEPs in my career - either as someone being inspected or as an inspector - and this was the probably the hardest one I've been through." 

"You really have to earn that 'Outstanding,'" Captain Smith said. "It's not that they don't want people to earn an 'Outstanding', they just want to make sure people are passing the test to get it. They get the big-picture stuff, and they dig a little bit deeper, and they're still finding it hard to find things wrong."