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Suffolk man top Navy air traffic controller

It is lives — not deadlines — that Miguel Estrella, AC1, is concerned about when he goes to work every day.

For his work as a United States Navy Air Traffic Controller, Estrella was named the Atlantic fleet’s Air Traffic Controller of the Year.

“My mission is to defend freedom and democracy around the world,” Estrella said. “That’s what my goal is every day. I make sure planes can go out, accomplish their mission and come back safely because if I don’t people die.”

Estrella, who lives in Suffolk with his wife and two children, is currently stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and has been in the Navy for 11 years.

It was for his “superior performance of duties” while temporarily assigned as a supervisor in the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower earlier this year that earned him the award, according to the award certificate.

The Eisenhower was one of two carriers on which Estrella volunteered.

“Two other crews were undermanned but because of him they were able to meet qualifications and get underway,” said Ken Lutza, ACC. “It was one of those things he volunteered to do. Because of his willingness to help others and his expertise and knowledge, nominating him was an easy choice.”

During temporary duty, he “exhibited expertise and composure under pressure which resulted in the successful completion of 1,054 combat sorties, 8,386 flight hours and 2,289 carrier arrested landings in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and maritime security operations in the north Arabian Sea,” according to the certificate.

He was also a mentor to numerous controllers and volunteered to help on two other carriers.