Military News

Friday, August 07, 2015

Airmen help base 'weather' any storm

by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/6/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Multiple displays of surrounding weather conditions fill monitors throughout the room. Screens and documents are flooded with combined acronyms and numbers - a cryptic language only a specialist can decipher.

Amidst the colorful display of precipitation, wind and climate forecasts, short spouts of data are verbally exchanged to accomplish the mission.

"Issue a weather advisory and inform our forecasters of the changes."

"Roger. I'll continue to monitor models and satellite imagery, as well."

The Airmen of the 4th Operations Support Squadron weather flight work diligently, 365 days a year, to stay ahead of Mother Nature and keep the people and aircraft of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base safe.

"The weather flight directs and coordinates weather watches, warnings and advisories," said Master Sgt. Adam Bolen, 4th OSS weather flight chief. "This ensures the safety of flights and enables the resource protection of (12,000) base personnel and families, as well as over $9 billion in Defense Department assets."

Airmen constantly monitor weather patterns spanning North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Gathering information such as temperature, wind speed, cloud movement and precipitation levels, Airmen are able provide accurate information to the base populace.

"We look at satellite feeds, (as well as) various radar and computer modeling websites," said Senior Airman Megan Blankenship, 4th OSS weather forecaster. "On any given day, we monitor around 15 to 20 different sources and products that we analyze and interpret to produce just one forecast for the airfield or a flying mission."

The weather flight is comprised of 17 individuals across three sections: staff, airfield services and mission services. The staff section handles administrative duties, while the airfield services section focuses on monitoring the weather above and within five nautical miles of the airfield. Mission services acts as the liaison between aircrew members and the weather flight by delivering forecasts for operations outside the immediate area.

"Briefing aircrew prior to flight is my favorite part of the job," said Staff Sgt. Robert Catron, 4th OSS weather forecaster. "We integrate with them in the fighter squadron, build trust and rapport and see all of our work culminate together."

By providing accurate forecasts, the weather flight has their hand in defending more than half of the Air Force's F-15E Strike Eagles. With so much of the mission taking place in the skies, their efforts ultimately assist in enabling more than 19,000 flying hours per year.

"Other jobs could get more difficult if there was no weather flight," Blankenship said. "We help save the Air Force money by forecasting inclement weather and advising leadership on potential hazards, which ultimately protects the lives of many aircrew members and billions of dollars in assets."

Bolen described his Airmen as "vigilant guardians" and said their work is above reproach.

"Few Airmen are tied to the mission of both the 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing like my Airmen," Bolen added. "The selflessness and default to action attitude they express every day is a tribute to the dedication of all of my weather forecasters."

Thanks to the accuracy and brevity of the weather flight's information, so far in 2015, no aircraft or traffic incidents installation involving inclement weather have occurred.

"I love working as a weather forecaster for the Air Force," Catron said. "Our situational awareness is always at its peak. The work may get hectic at times, but we do what it takes to get the mission done. When weather is at its worst, I'm at my best."

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