Weather squadron covers 42 countries

  • Published
  • By Capt. Yvonne Levardi
  • 13th Air Force Public Affairs
With 110 million square miles in its operational region, the 152 Airmen in the 17th Operational Weather Squadron here are responsible for the largest area of responsibility of all the operational weather squadrons in the Air Force.

And with 42 countries in the area of responsibility, squadron Airmen deal with many variations of weather.

"Just because we're located in Hawaii doesn't mean all the weather is benign," said Lt. Col. Stephen Romolo, the 17th OWS commander. "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 (Pacific Air Forces) 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.

The squadron provides tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings for Department of Defense and U.S. governmental agencies in the Pacific region through the Joint Typhoon Warning Centers, and 24/7 weather support to the 15th Airlift Wing and its tenant units with the Hickam Air Force Base Weather Flight. In addition, unit members provide weather support to U.S. Army Pacific staff.

The 17th OWS was named the Air Force's Outstanding Operational Weather Squadron for 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, the 17th OWS chief enlisted manager.

In 2006, 17th OWS members completed a merger with the 20th OWS, formerly at Yokota Air Base, Japan, which laid the foundation for a new merger with the 11th OWS, at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. The merger with the 20th OWS -- executed two months early and $50,000 under budget -- increased the squadron's operations floor by eight forecaster positions and increased their operations by 300 percent. By merging the two squadrons together, the unit was able to reduce their overall manpower authorizations by 12. The squadron also reintroduced the Hickam Combat Weather Team to support the 15th Airlift Wing, and provided support to the 13th Air Force and 15th AW during Super Typhoon Ioke to aid mission planners with the evacuation of the 188 people at Wake Island.

"The bottom line is, our team is made up of motivated and smart Airmen who are focused on accomplishing the mission," Colonel Romolo said.