Smart Ops squadron earns "Best in Air Force"

  • Published
  • By Capt. Yvonne Levardi
  • 13th Air Force Public Affairs
The tyranny of distance in the Pacific Theater doesn't hinder the 152 Airmen who make up the 17th Operational Weather Squadron - in April they were recognized as the Air Force's "Outstanding Operational Weather Squadron" for their accomplishments in 2006, awarding them the distinction of being the best of eight operational weather squadrons worldwide.
"The men and women of the 17th are honored to receive this award and be recognized for our accomplishments last year," said Lt. Col. Stephen Romolo, 17th OWS commander. "This award solidifies everyone's hard work and dedication."
With 110 million square miles in its operational region, the 17th OWS is responsible for the largest Area of Responsibility of all the operational weather squadrons in the Air Force. And with 42 countries in the AOR, the squadron deals with many variations of weather.

"We get it all here," Colonel Romolo said. "Just because we're located in Hawaii doesn't mean all the weather is benign. From the yellow wind events in Korea to the sea fog in Japan to the tropical cyclones that occur throughout our AOR - even tsunami warnings, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes - we're the belly button in PACAF for that."
The squadron also supports any aircraft transitioning through the AOR with weather information, the colonel said.

"The 17th OWS is a very diverse squadron whose primary mission is to provide 24/7 regional weather support throughout the AOR," Colonel Romolo said. 

According to the colonel, the squadron also provides: tropical cyclone forecasts/warnings for Department of Defense and U.S. governmental agencies in the Pacific region through the Joint Typhoon Warning Centers, 24/7 weather support to the 15th Airlift Wing and its tenant units with the Hickam Weather Flight, weather support to U.S. Army Pacific staff via the U.S. Army Pacific Staff Weather Office, and trains and upgrades their 3-level initial skills course weather graduates to 5-level weather forecasters through their training mission- and they do it very well as shown by their 100 percent CDC pass rate in 2006.

"Our outstanding Airmen worked 24/7, 365 days a year, doing phenomenal work to accomplish the mission and earned this award," said Chief Master Sgt. Stephen McConnell, 17th OWS Chief Enlisted Manager.
Some of the squadron's accomplishments in 2006 include completing a merger with the 20th OWS, formerly at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan; laying the foundation for a new merger with the 11th OWS, at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. The merger with the 20th - executed two months early and $50K under budget - increased the squadron's operations floor by eight forecaster positions and increased their operations by 300 percent; and by merging the two squadrons together they were able to reduce their overall manpower authorizations by 12 positions.

The squadron also "resurrected" the Hickam Combat Weather Team to support the 15th AW; in August 2006, the squadron scored an amazing 97 percent on their Air Force weather Standardization/Evaluation inspection - only two months after completing their merger with the 20th OWS; and provided support to the 13th Air Force and 15th AW during Super Typhoon Loke to aid mission planners with the evacuation of the 188 people stationed at Wake Island.

From exercise to real-world contingency support; to their upgrade forecasters earning an average 87 percent end-of-course average; to providing weather briefings to U.S. Pacific Command and Pacific Air Forces Commanders; to providing weather support to the Governor of Hawaii during a 41-day onslaught of rain and the worst state-wide flooding in more than 55 years - this squadron proved its dedication to excellence.
"The bottom line is, our team is made up of motivated and smart Airmen who are focused on accomplishing the mission," Colonel Romolo said. "It was truly the year of the 17th."