AFWA hosts civic leaders from Air Force Space Command

  • Published
  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Weather Agency welcomed 23 civic leaders from across Air Force Space Command to its headquarters facility April 30.

The visit was just one stop on base for the group as they also toured U.S. Strategic Command, went inside an E-4B and met with one of the base's local community support groups.

The civic leaders started out their visit to AFWA's Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Moorman building by receiving a mission brief from U.S. Air Force Col. Louis Zuccarello, AFWA commander.

"We have a lot of connections to space and we're very proud to have you here to show just a few of those," he said. "AFWA has a truly global mission and we would not be able to execute without the tremendous support we get from Air Force Space Command."

Following the mission brief, the group was treated to an in-depth look at space weather. AFWA is home to the 2nd Weather Squadron's space weather operations center, or Space WOC, where Airmen stand ready to alert multiple national agencies of solar activity and its interaction with the Earth.

"We're the only 24/7 space weather provider within the Department of Defense," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bradley Stebbins, 2nd WS commander. "Space weather is incredibly important because it has the potential to cause significant, if not catastrophic, impacts to national security."

Stebbins explained how the unit continuously monitors the sun through a worldwide network of radio and optical solar observatories. Together with the operations center at Offutt AFB, their mission is to enhance space situational awareness through solar event forecasting and warning, and satellite anomaly assessments.

The group concluded their stop at AFWA by touring the state-of-the-art Space WOC and meeting some of the Airmen charged with maintaining vigilance over the sun. The center is the heart of the unit's space weather mission.

"Our goal is to ensure the people who need our information, get our information," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Gipson, 2nd WS director of operations. "Many different space weather impacts occur regularly and our analysts proactively seek to warn the various DoD agencies we serve."

Gipson talked in-depth about the technology the unit relies on to assess space weather and explained a few of the challenges as well. He described how solar flares and particles can have an effect for as little as a few minutes or even a few hours, and he also touched on how his team deals with geomagnetic storms and scintillation.

Overall, the group of civic leaders came away educated on the breadth and depth of AFWA's mission as well as the Airmen performing it.

"I've been just so impressed with these young people we've encountered here," said Sharon O'Malley Burg, an honorary commander with the 24th Air Force out of Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. "I would love to know how we could help shape the entire younger generation so they would also have an interest in science and technology as these Airmen do."

"As a former B-52 pilot, I realize the impact weather can have on a mission," said Dr. Lance Armstrong, an honorary commander with the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. "To learn that we're now monitoring space weather on a 24/7 basis to ensure our troops are aware of possible impacts is just awesome."

Offutt was the first stop on the group's two-day, two destination community relations tour. The trip was designed to educate them about AFSPC's critical mission sets and how they, as civic leaders, play an important role within their local community, state and region.

Also part of the group's community relations tour was a visit to U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.