Weather warns warriors, saves services silver
Senior Airman Alicia Freedman analyzes weather data as she prepares a forecast briefing for base leadership at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, June 19, 2013. Freedman is a 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)
by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
6/27/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As the dust clouds roll in, 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather forecasters here analyze the intensity, direction and impact of the impending storm to base assets and the mission.
"Our radar allows us to notify maintenance crews out on the airfield that conditions are unsafe and allow them to take protective shelter from damaging hail and winds," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Butler, the 379th EOSS weather flight chief deployed from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. "[The radar] is extremely vital to our operations; in the event of a significant dust storm we'd be able to pick that dust up on this system, tell you exactly what the wind speeds are and how long before it hits the 379th [Air Expeditionary Wing] so we can in turn prep the base for emergency response."
Air Force weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots by means of two duty sets: airfield and mission.
"With airfield, we monitor the 379th and what's going on over us," said Senior Airman Alicia Freedman, a 379th EOSS weather forecaster deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. "We issue weather watches, warnings and advisories, not to mention all the diverts for the base."
Freedman said the mission duty set includes the forecasting for operations.
"This is significantly important for the 379th's mission," she said. "We have several missions taking off daily and we have to make sure those pilots know what is going on weather-wise and make it to their destinations safely without any harm. If pilots don't know what their limitations are, what they encounter out there could be exceptionally fatal."
All this forecasting would not be possible, however, without weather's portable Doppler radar and their airfield sensor.
"Our portable Doppler radar serves an extremely important function as our key tool for reading and understanding the severity of thunderstorms," Freedman said. "We get the timing for when the thunderstorm will be in a specific location so we'll know where it may hit. We then forward this information up to the different wings, missions and flights so they can make an informed decision protecting base assets and personnel."
"Just last week we had a small pattern pushing more than 40 mph for five to six days straight," she added. "These were advisory level winds that potentially impact whether or not an aircrew can fly."
Freedman, Butler and more than 700 weather forecasters across the Air Force, read and interpret weather satellite imagery, climatology reports, computerized weather prediction models and Doppler weather radar imagery; operate a weather radar console and a high-frequency pilot-to-metro radio; analyze and forecast weather elements such as clouds, visibility, winds, atmospheric pressure and many other parameters.
"Our portable Doppler radar uses Next-Generation Radar, or NEXRAD, technology," said Butler. "We can tell you the intensity of the rain showers and their range with exactly where that shower is occurring."
During the thunderstorm months, Butler said his weather forecasters are able to find where the thunderstorms are, determine their direction, how strong they are and whether or not they'll be able to affect the 379th AEW's assets.
"Cost savings comes down to the amount of money we save with the resource protection," Butler said. "This radar increases resource protection for more than $68 billion in base assets not to mention personnel."
The 379th EOSS's weather flight is manned by eight active duty Airmen 24/7.
"We come from bases all throughout the world," he said. "We integrate as one team to provide resource protection and exploit the weather for battle."
Air Force Weather traces its heritage to two centuries of American military weather service. U.S. Army surgeons began recording weather observations regularly in the early 1800s as part of the Army's medical studies.
Today, weather Airmen deliver the highest-quality tailored weather and space environment information, products and services to the Nation's combat forces, anytime, anywhere.