OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
Many people check the weather before they start their day; looking for guidance about how they should dress, how their commute may be affected and whether they can expect severe weather.
For service members overseas, this can be difficult as their local weather may be presented in a foreign language, in an unfamiliar temperature scale or may not even exist.
Four Airmen from the 2nd Weather Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, provide this service to men and women all over the world by producing weather forecasts for both the American Forces Network and Stars and Stripes. However, broadcasting is not in their blood.
“AFN is unique in that we work with hardware and software that is not listed within our career field’s spectrum of tasks,” said Staff Sgt. Jared Lindley, NCO in charge of the AFN Weather Center.
Unlike broadcast journalists and other staff working for AFN, the 2nd WS weather craftsmen have no background in broadcasting. Airmen generally volunteer for the AFN assignment, usually taking the job for up to two years.
Tech. Sgt. Caitlin Jones, an instructor at the Defense Information School, visited the AFNWC Aug. 6-9, 2018, to provide supplementary broadcast training for new staff members. DINFOS provides training in journalism, broadcasting and public affairs for Defense Department personnel.
“I think this is such a unique mission here at Offutt and we're asking these Airmen to do something that's completely outside of their comfort zone,” Jones said. “They didn't join the Air Force to be broadcasters, but by the nature of the weather career field, we're asking them to communicate to a worldwide audience on AFN.”
To build a forecast, members of the AFNWC take data gathered by the 557th Weather Wing as well as observers in the field to build a forecast that includes high and low temperatures as well as local conditions.
After the forecast is loaded into video animation software, a script is written to match. A member of the team then reads the script aloud in a recording booth before joining the audio and video together. This is done for eight separate regions, seven days a week.
The AFNWC’s forecasts cover 85 locations and reach almost a million service members, government employees and their families: 500,000 from AFN and over 350,000 through Stars and Stripes.
One challenge these Airmen face is learning to speak with a broadcaster’s voice. The individual accents and quirks that make up each person’s voice can also make it difficult for the audience to understand.
“You only have one chance with a broadcast medium to get your point across,” Jones said. “People can't rewind AFN television, they can't go back and read your script. So you have to be able to be understood the first time that you deliver a message, and you have to be able to communicate that message in an effective way.”
As part of their training, the AFNWC staff do voice exercises to help with articulation, pace and breath control. In one, the staff practice breathing from their stomachs instead of up in the shoulders. In another, they work on their articulation by biting down on a pen or pencil while reading their scripts aloud.
Although they may seem comical, these exercises help make their voices easier to understand. However, even with training, pronouncing location names like Kwajalein, Chievres and Grafenwohr can still trip up an experienced announcer at times.
“I have found that reading the scripts beforehand using tools given to us during the speech training helps drastically,” Lindley said. “I utilize the pen method to perfect my articulation whenever I’m having trouble putting words together. Also, breathing differently has helped prevent voice punching.”
The AFNWC staff’s responsibilities doesn’t stop at weather forecasts. The team has also taken on a new training mission.
“On top of providing the AFNWC forecasts we are also a part of the Training and Integration Flight,” Lindley said. “We aid our squadron by providing training aids and seminars to preserve deployment readiness as well as maintaining core tasks and AFI-mandated training expectations.”
To see the AFNWC’s weather forecasts, visit https://www.557weatherwing.af.mil/About-Us/Weather-Updates.