14th Weather Squadron - More than just a beautiful place to live|
Commentary by Chief Master Sergeant Mark Redford
AFWA Chief Enlisted Manager
1/12/2009 - ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The first thing that strikes you when driving into this town is the stunning beauty of the mountains and rivers surrounding the area. There is no questioning why Relocate-America.com listed this city in its top 10 places to live in the United States. One visit and I understood why they gave it such a high ranking. The city itself, tucked neatly inside the Smoky Mountains, seems to be lost somewhere between the 1950s and 1970s and is very quaint and peaceful. So, why wouldn't someone want an assignment here with the 14th Weather Squadron?
Perhaps I had a false perception; not being on a military instillation would make them feel disconnected from the grater Air Force mission and not part of Air Force weather. I had to eat my words! What I found were professional, dedicated, proud members of the Air Force weather team who were well versed in the art of meteorology.
After a few visits to the 14th WS, I started asking folks what skills they've learned at the squadron that would make their next commander glad to have them on his or her team. The simplicity of the answers was amazing and I was embarrassed that as a weather chief I couldn't figure it out myself. Most of the Airmen said that prior to their assignment in Asheville they thought they had a good understanding of climatology and the products available, knew how to use them, and knew how they were used by the warfighter.
After arriving here they were quickly indoctrinated in the art of statistical analysis and realized there was much more to climatology than what they learned in technical school at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Almost everyone I asked said that after being stationed here they have a better understanding of climatology, how it's derived, its uses and its limitations. Not only did they gain a better understand of weather, but had an enhance understanding of the overall Air Force weather mission making them more prepared for that next stripe.
Others talked about their understanding and appreciation of the data quality control process. They see QC as more than checking for coding errors. To them, QC is checking for meteorological integrity in the observation. They used the example of dew point temperatures dropping more than 30 degrees in an observation. The system coded the observation as having an error, but after talking about the observation with other forecasters and analyzing charts they realized that the sudden drop in dew point temperature was due to a dry line moving through Texas. A simple example, but it points out the fact that these professionals use their meteorological skills daily. Furthermore, these forecasters know weather codes, land synoptic, ship synoptic, Meteorological Aviation Reports and even airways like the back of their hand.
Do you think you understand models and their biases? Several of the forecasters I spoke with thought they understood how models worked and even considered themselves to be somewhat of an expert. However, after working in the modeling section they quickly learned there was much more to model output. These forecasters felt that their understanding of models, how weather data is incorporated into the model, their strengths and biases would be of a great benefit at an Operational Weather Squadron. In spite of all this, the 14th WS isn't just about being weather professionals; they also take the Air Force, and the perception the community draws about them, seriously.
Being the only active-duty military presence in Western North Carolina, the squadron has great ties with the surrounding community. The 12 members of the special ceremonies team average more than 50 events a year. Their area of responsibility stretches across Eastern Tennessee and the Western Carolinas. Their reputation for excellence is well known throughout the area and just word of mouth generates frequent requests from community organizations and civic leaders. If you're into watching NASCAR, chances are you've seen the squadron's color guard in action. They've opened events such as the Food City 500 and Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., and the NASCAR All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. They regularly lead off Gatlinburg, Tennessee's Fourth of July Parade, our nation's first Fourth of July parade, which starts at 12:01 a.m. They are also judges for ROTC competitions, present the colors at community events and provide firing details and flag folding details rendering final honors to our fallen veterans and service members.
Members of the 14th WS are an active and vital part of the community here. They attend local Rotary Club meetings, and volunteer in schools and scouting events. In all, members of the squadron selflessly dedicate more than 600 man-hours of off duty time per year in representing our Air Force.
The 14th WS mission is more than just climatology; it's forensic weather. It's about analyzing the past to predict the future. Using emerging technologies to give military planners the data needed to successfully plan and execute operations. The bottom-line is to give warfighters the environmental information when, where, and how it is needed to put bombs on target. So if you want to try something different, accept a unique challenge, and add a new set of tools to your tool box, then look for an assignment to the 14 Weather Squadron in Asheville as part of your career development plan. You may be pleasantly surprised.