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Weather unit celebrates 20 years at Scott AFB, looks to future as pioneers

Frederick Wirsing, Air Mobility Command chief weather operations and plans branch, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Arjay Canonizado, 15th Operational Weather Squadron forecaster, cut the cake at the 15th OWS 20th anniversary dinner, Feb. 12, 2019, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. During its 77 years, the 15th OWS has been located in six states and four countries across three different continents. It has spent the last 20 years assigned to Scott. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia)

Frederick Wirsing, Air Mobility Command chief weather operations and plans branch, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Arjay Canonizado, 15th Operational Weather Squadron forecaster, cut the cake at the 15th OWS 20th anniversary dinner, Feb. 12, 2019, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. During its 77 years, the 15th OWS has been located in six states and four countries across three different continents. It has spent the last 20 years assigned to Scott. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia)

Staff Sgt. John Breon, 15th Operational Weather Squadron weather journeyman, points out the current weather affecting Scott Air Force Base and the surrounding area. The mission of the 15th OWS is delivering environmental intelligence by monitoring weather patterns and systems that might affect various military bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Hudson)

Staff Sgt. John Breon, 15th Operational Weather Squadron weather journeyman, points out the current weather affecting Scott Air Force Base and the surrounding area. The mission of the 15th OWS is delivering environmental intelligence by monitoring weather patterns and systems that might affect various military bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Hudson)

U.S. Air Force Col. Brian Pukall, 577th Weather Wing commander, and Lt. Col. Lance Ratterman, 15th Operational Weather Squad commander, listen to a guest speaker during the 15th OWS 20th anniversary dinner, Feb. 12, 2019, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. During its 77 years, the 15th OWS has been located in six states and four countries across three different continents. It has spent the last 20 years assigned to Scott. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia)

U.S. Air Force Col. Brian Pukall, 577th Weather Wing commander, and Lt. Col. Lance Ratterman, 15th Operational Weather Squad commander, listen to a guest speaker during the 15th OWS 20th anniversary dinner, Feb. 12, 2019, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. During its 77 years, the 15th OWS has been located in six states and four countries across three different continents. It has spent the last 20 years assigned to Scott. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia)

Airmen from the 15th Operational Weather Squadron monitor weather systems and patterns to help them better forecast upcoming weather that might affect various bases and their missions. The 15th OWS monitors weather to brief pilots about weather they might experience on their upcoming flight and send severe weather alerts to military bases if necessary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Hudson)

Airmen from the 15th Operational Weather Squadron monitor weather systems and patterns to help them better forecast upcoming weather that might affect various bases and their missions. The 15th OWS monitors weather to brief pilots about weather they might experience on their upcoming flight and send severe weather alerts to military bases if necessary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Hudson)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The 15th Operational Weather Squadron recently acknowledged its 20th Anniversary at Scott Air Force Base, marking the occasion with a celebratory dinner.

In attendance were Col. Brian Pukall, 557th Weather Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Walker, 557th WW command chief, and Christopher Finnigsmier, 557th WW technical director, as well as several prior commanders and Air Weather Service alumni.

During its 77 years, the 15th OWS has been located in six states and four countries across three different continents.

At the start of World War II, weather warriors functioned in small groups to support bombardment units, centralizing to form the 15th Weather Squadron. During these trying times, the weather forecasters found themselves not only forecasting for the battle, but in the midst of the battle themselves.

Although the unit has seen constant change throughout the years, with 59 commanders and 13 relocations, its focus has ultimately remained the same: the safekeeping of the Air Force and Army’s most precious assets. 

A key component of the unit’s success and longevity has been the ability of weather warriors to adapt to the ever-changing nature of weather on a daily basis and evolve with the transforming career field.

Since the days of WWII, the 15th OWS has expanded upon its mission of providing flight weather briefings for aircrew preflight and en route locations, while also issuing weather watches and advisories for the northeast United States. Simultaneously, the 15th OWS is committed to a mission of training 20 percent of newly graduated weather forecast apprentices from Keesler AFB, Mississippi.

In 2000, the 15th OWS made a brazen innovation by using database and web technologies to produce and disseminate forecasts. This shift created the capability for all operational weather squadrons to provide temporary comprehensive mission support during events, upgrades and unforeseen developments.

It also created the opportunity for weather forecasters to tailor weather products for mission-specific exploitation. Weather personnel could then create pinpoint forecasts with the capability of rerouting aircrafts to more favorable refueling tracks and mission routes. 

The last 20 years have been marked by innovation, commitment and the constant pursuit of excellence. Currently, the 15th OWS is gearing up to broaden the spectrum of weather warrior aptitudes by delivering weather decision aids that pinpoint thunderstorms, turbulence and icing on a global scale.

Through the next 20 years the unit will strive to realize their vision to be “the premier source of environmental intelligence, fueled by a family of innovative warrior Airmen, empowered to define and develop the future.” 

The weather warriors will continue to navigate the evolution of weather technologies, and act as pioneers to support the Air Force mission.  (Airman 1st Class Malica Alexandre contributed to this article)