The ALPHABET School has undergone enormous changes in the last few years. To keep both occupations (AWC and AD Techs) abreast (no pun intended) of the many changes would be almost an impossible task since changes are occurring almost daily! Hopefully, the following will alleviate the answer to many of your questions.
Before looking at the Occupations Training of today, let’s look at how both occupations evolved to their present state. Once upon a time in a land far, far away.
Fighter Controllers in the late 50s were for the most part Air Navigators assigned to ground tours. They and the odd Pilot’s normal rotation was two flying tours and then the dreaded ground (mostly non flying) tour which meant, if they were lucky, a tour of up to three (3) years as a Fighter Controller at a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) or Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Squadron somewhere out in the boonies! Places like Tofino, BC; Ramore Ontario; Parent, Quebec; or Beaverbank, NS, which were usually located as close as possible to the nearest swarm of mosquitoes in their immediate area. Most Fighter Controllers received their introduction (some were NEVER introduced) to training when they arrived at a GCI by being placed in front of an OA-175 (PPI) and taught how to get both 15J1D aircraft into the same airspace at the same time. Their instructors were, for the most part, very knowledgeable about the air-to-air environment. When the trainees showed marked improvement, they were allowed to control LIVE aircraft – usually CF-100s as well as the odd F-86D or F-89J. They were usually declared Combat Ready after working one Live Exercise (That’s where it all started folks).
Fighter Control Operators (FtrCops or FCOs), however had to progress through an organized training system similar to today’s system, which took up to three years or so before being fully qualified. That is not to say that they did not gain Combat Ready status, since FCOs were not employable until they became CR. Rather, they had to progress through three distinct groups or levels which started when they attended 1 R&CS at Clinton, Ontario. Completion of the basic FtrCop course; involving subjects such as Navigation, Meteorology, Radar Theory and the dreaded Organization etc.; meant that personnel has successfully passed their Group 1 Exam (minimum passing mark of 60%). They were then posted to those same GCIs previously mentioned. They then entered further training in local procedures etc. as Plotters, Scope (Copes NEVER entered MY vocab) Operators, HF Operators etc. Usually prior to attempting their Group 2 exams, they were required to attend (some NEVER did) a two week intensive training program. Then, if they had the required minimum of one year since qualifying as Group 1s, could attempt the Group 2 exam, which incidentally were held semi-annually in April and October. The same formula was required for Group 3. This was the last requirement as far as trade’s training for FCOs was concerned. However as FCOs gained experience through their Groupings, they were employed in (Dias or Dais) supervisory positions and if lucky were used as Intercept Control Assistants (ITAs).
These ITAs helped make life bearable for Fighter Controllers during the hairy days of large scale exercises. FtrCops were also employed as 15J1D operators, the original IPS function. A HARD TURN required physically grabbing the azimuth dial and turning it in the desired direction against the gears resistance – laid credence to the fact that FCOs were the "Strong Right (or Left) arm" of the Fighter Controller. Incidentally, all Officers were required to maintain both Live and Simulator intercept missions in the order of 12 Live and 24 Simulated sorties – including the COpsO (de boss).
Air Defence Command was situated at RCAF Station St. Hubert, Quebec and various Air Divisions were seconded to ADC. These Air Divisions were located both in Canada and in Europe. All communications were with various types of Voice and perhaps one teletype circuit. ADC in St. Hubert was also known as Northern NORAD Region, which is what North Bay was named as it first came into operation in the Hole. Ottawa NORAD Sector was the actual centre of operations, moved from RCAF Station Edgar as SAGE (ROCCs automated predecessor) came on line and NNR was the higher echelon. So we have gone from Sectors to Regions and back to Sectors again.
Fighter Controllers and later Air Weapons Controllers entered into more formalized training with the introduction of SAGE. The first formal course for AWCs originated in the Ottawa NORAD Sector. Selected personnel, and for a while all AWCs trained as Automated Controllers, attended the formal Manual Controller Course at RCAF Station Mont Apica (after the dirt road was paved) whose hallowed conference room door contained the immortal inscription:
"Through these portals pass Air Weapons Controllers,
who have been introduced into the air-to-air regime,
in order to provide class, to what would otherwise
be known as a vicious and vulgar brawl"
or words to that effect.
Formal FtrCops training ceased at 1 R&CS Clinton during late 1962. Air Women of WDs (Women’s Division) as they were sometimes known, composed the majority of trades persons in the FCO trade, were excluded from further employment as such at the same time – 1962, and by the summer of 1963 the trade was entirely male. Training recommenced for FCOs at RCAF Station Lac St. Denis in 1965. Staff arrived in July of that year and the first serial graduated in October or November 1965. The school again closed in 1968 for approximately one year – reopening in 1969. FtrCops were by this time known as AD Techs. On 1 April 1976 the School moved from Lac St. Denis to CFS Falconbridge, where the first serial graduated the first females since 1963.
The "Pointy End" or so CWO "Sam" Card (Ret) called them at the School in North Bay, was, by this time conducting the AWC Basic Course and the TQ-5A (171) Course. The Detachment at Falconbridge was responsible for the TQ-3 and the AJO/RCT/EWDM/RC courses and by our own admission, was known as the Sharp End of AWC&CS. With the advent of formalized TQ-4 training, the Detachment at CFS Falconbridge was responsible for the formulation and distribution of TQ-4 Examinations, initially on a quarterly and eventually semi-annually basis to LRRs, which when complete were to forward exams to the Detachment for correction and tabulation. The reason the TQ-4 was instituted was because of the varied knowledge levels of personnel reporting in to the TQ-5A Course.
This is an extract written by WWH Brown taken from The Attention Arrow, Spring 1987.