The new face of the Pacific



Commentary by Col. Wendall T. Stapler
Chief of the Weather Division - Air and Space Operations Directorate


8/6/2006 - Headquarters PACAF, Hickam AFB, Hawaii  -- I was once told you can't control how the world is changing around you, but you can control how you react to that change. Col. John Murphy did an excellent job in the Jan/Feb '06 issue of the Observer outlining some of the changes we face as a career field and our game plan to meet the accompanying challenges and succeed. As we move along the path he outlined, it will be important to keep situational awareness on some of the specific actions going on in individual theaters. I'll focus in this forum primarily on a number of Pacific Air Forces weather organizational initiatives that are either in progress or completed.

It's important to first consider some of the defining features of the Pacific Theater. It is a vast region, more than 100 million square miles, and is relatively data sparse, forcing us to rely heavily on satellite technology. We face virtually every forecasting challenge from Alaska's arctic conditions, to sea fog and lake-effect snowshowers, to typhoon alley in the western Pacific. The Pacific also remains a strategically vital theater of operations. It contains more than one-half of the world's population and is undergoing unprecedented economic growth. Potential flashpoints and the ever-present threat of a natural disaster in this far-flung theater require a state of continuous vigilance. That requirement has caused us to initiate a number of organizational changes.

In April 2006, we officially deactivated the 20th Operational Weather Squadron in Japan and transferred its responsibilities to the 17th Operational Weather Squadron in Hawaii (for more information see "Soyanara Japan and Aloha Hawaii" in the March/April '06 issue of the Observer). This allowed us to achieve some efficiency by consolidating operational weather support previously provided by two OWSs and streamlining weather operations for our 13th Air Force Warfighting Headquarters in Hawaii.

Another OWS merger was approved recently and initial planning activities are already underway. Under this plan, the 11th OWS at Elmendorf AFB Alaska will deactivate by September 2008 and the 17th OWS will take over responsibility for the Alaskan theater of operations. This will leave us with a single OWS for the entire PACAF area of responsibility.

Army transformation and planned force reductions on the Korean Peninsula have driven a reevaluation of Army support provided by the 607th Weather Squadron. We have reshaped weather operations in Korea by closing down Camps Stanley, Page, and Stanton, within the last year. The 607th Weather Squadron is on-track for reorganization and an eventual move from Seoul to Camp Humphreys.

In addition, Army Transformation has prompted an Air Force-wide planning effort to restructure Army weather support for increased efficiency and flexibility in order to meet the requirements of a more modular Army. If the concept is approved, a second PACAF weather squadron would be stood up or transferred from another MAJCOM to provide theater-wide,with the exception of Korea, Army weather support and oversight.

Something that hasn't changed in this area of responsibility, or the rest of the Air Force, is the tremendous performance, sacrifice, and dedication to duty of all our weather personnel. Whether deployed or at home station, your contributions and effort have directly contributed to making us the most professional and capable Air Force in the world. I look forward to working with each of you in the future.