The Weather Operations metamorphosis

  • Published
  • By David R. Hopper
  • 557th Weather Wing Public Affairs

The 557th Weather Wing emerged from its cocoon on March 27, 2015, marking the beginning of a new era for Weather Warriors who would transition the Air Force Weather Agency from a Field Operating Agency to a first-of-its-kind operational weather wing.

This process would take more than new letterhead, as leadership took to battling the dogma of an aged set of processes and the library of weather-related stereotypes to develop an organization worthy of its heritage, yet cutting-edge for the future.

“As we ensure our missions are accomplished, there are units out there who may not be aware of our changes,” said Col. Patrick Williams, 557th WW commander. “I want everyone to know that the information they need is still available, but the request process may have changed a bit over the past seven years.”

Overall, the 557th WW still has many of their legacy systems for the weather community at the unit to gather weather data to support their local missions’ level like the Joint Environmental Toolkit and Air Force Weather WEB Services. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Our mission now involves more than just providing products,” said Lt. Col. Eric Cercone, 557th Weather Wing Future Plans director. “Our mission has evolved into weather intelligence with cyber capabilities.”

When the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force signed Program Action Directive  14-03, it realigned AFWA’s operational functions under Air Combat Command and established ‘a specialized mission wing to streamline the execution of weather support to global operations.’ As a result, the organization changed many of its procedures to better align itself within the command’s structure and today is tasked directly through Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber).

This change, while sounding easy enough, created a lot of cross-institutional issues that needed to be worked out. The main problem it created was how Air Force units would request support moving forward.

Previously, when the 557th WW was a FOA, any unit could task them directly, which sometimes caused confusion. At times, more than one request was sent for the same task to different parts of the agency. This was inefficient and changes needed to be made.

Those changes included developing a process to formally document weather requirements, which would more clearly define the actual need from the unit.

“The weather wing, like everyone else, has a finite amount of resources and we need to use them in the most efficient manner,” Williams said. “I believe the wing is at the forefront of a major shift in what it means to be a ‘Weather Airman.’”

From Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations to weather modeling and even red and blue-force forecasting, the transformation of weather operations to include cyber and intelligence capabilities is nearing completion.

“Weather Airmen have always taken pride in how they use science to solve problems,” Williams said, “now they use science to prevent them as well.”