by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
6/30/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Norma
Gene Cadena's last wish is to relive her days as a weather observer and
to see what it would be like today to do the same job. At 87, Cadena
has terminal lung cancer and, through the Sisters of Saint Mary Health
Hospice and Home Health Foundation "Memories that Last" program, her
wish was granted to visit the 15th Operational Weather Squadron on Scott
Air Force Base, June 26, 2015.
Towards the end of World War II the U.S. Weather Bureau hired more than
900 women as observers and forecasters to fill the positions of men
who'd been called to duty; one of those women was Cadena. Although she
said she was only a "weather girl" for about a year she still remembers
the responsibilities and importance of a weather observer's job.
Cadena's trip to Scott began with a welcome by members of the 15th OWS
followed by a trip to memory lane where Airmen showed her nostalgic
photographs and items the squadron has collected over the years.
The items brought up memories that she began to share about her time as an observer.
"I went to training school in Fort Worth, Texas," she said. "Then we
were assigned to a base where they needed weather forecasters. I was
assigned to a Marine Corps base in Beaumont, Texas. All the women were
treated the same as men. We were busy. I remember in the 1940's we had
no days off."
After her tour of the heritage wall, Airmen explained their training
process and what equipment they use today. But Cadenas eyes grew big as
they rolled her into the room where all the Airmen worked and determined
She was interested in learning about all the technology the Airmen have
available today. She worked her way from one side of the room to the
other, talking to many different Airmen about their jobs.
"I used to have to fill a balloon with helium, release it, and then
track it," said Cadena. "We would press a button, 'cheep, cheep,' to
take a reading. Then, by watching the balloon we had to chart or draw
the velocity, the type of clouds, and direction of winds on a map. The
forecast was provided to the Marines to make sure they could come back
from the Pacific Islands safely."
At the end of the tour Lt. Col. Danielle Budzko, 15th OWS commander,
gave Cadena a squadron coin and took a group photo with her. After she
received the coin she kept asking members if they wanted to see it, but
wouldn't let anyone hold it.
"I was so shocked that everyone would want to talk to an old person like
me," she said. "It was such an honor to be allowed to come into the
base. I appreciate seeing the technology you all have to work with
today. When I see it I just think" oh my goodness, oh my goodness"!"
Prior to the trip, Airmen were notified of Cadena's condition and that
she may need to use oxygen frequently. But that wasn't the case
according to her care giver.
"When I visit with her, she always mentions how she used to be a weather
forecaster but wasn't able to elaborate on her job details," said Gina
Bax, SSM Hospice Social Worker. "Since we walked in the door [at Scott] I
have never seen her more lively and talkative. She didn't ask for her
oxygen the whole trip."