Teamwork and Communication

  • Published
  • By Maj. David Runge
  • 9th Operational Weather Squadron
Operational Weather Squadrons and Weather Flights work as a team to accomplish the same mission - provide the best possible environmental situational awareness to the warfighter. Their perspectives and roles, however, are significantly different.
The OWS forecaster deals more with meteorological parameters and is focused on the Analysis Forecast Process, severe weather checklists, and Terminal Aerodrome Forecast reasoning. Also alert to the latest weather conditions, the WF forecaster is even more "plugged into" planning and execution cycles and utilizes the Mission Execution Forecast Process to perform the role of tailoring MEFs to facilitate execution decisions. Both roles are important for the OWS and WF forecaster to do their jobs effectively, but it is essential both become familiar with the other's focus and keep communication lines open to optimize weather support for the warfighter. To help accomplish this, the 9th OWS hosted a WF Open House in August with plan for recurring WF visits in the future.
Appropriately, the WF Open House theme was Teamwork and Communication. To facilitate these goals, the 9th OWS provided a tour of the their training and operations facilities, briefed topics pertaining to both WF and OWS operations, held open discussions, and hosted an evening social and dinner.
During the meteorological vs. operational focus discussions, participants discussed the roles of both OWS and WF forecasters, and how open communication helps each other accomplish these roles more effectively. Everyone involved agreed that OWS forecasters need to be in tune with meteorological reasoning, but they also need to remain vigilant of how their products affect operational considerations and ensure the WF forecaster is in-the-loop before a TAF (or warning) is issued. It was also agreed that operations familiarization training would benefit OWS forecasters. Shaw's WF commander, Capt. Brian Belson, volunteered to provide operations orientation training for 9th OWS forecasters at the Shaw weather station. Maj. Jonathan Kelly, the 9th OWS commander, immediately took him up on the offer and will incorporate this familiarization program into the squadron's formal training. There was also consensus that all WF leaders should educate their forecasters on the OWS forecaster meteorological bias that is more focused on meeting desired lead times (up to 2 hours) and TAF thresholds based on severe weather potential and meteorological reasoning, not on customer operations (i.e. ORI exercises or key sorties planned for the day).
After the WF Open House, the 9th OWS sent out a seven-member team to visit some of the weather flights across Georgia and Florida.
"The team thoroughly enjoyed the visits that allowed them face-to-face discussions with WF counterparts they've been working with over the phone," said Tech. Sgt. David Humphreys, an OWS forecaster and member of the visiting team. "It was especially encouraging to see misconceptions melt away as they engaged in conversations and became more aware of each other's perspectives."
At all visited locations, WF leadership provided briefs on their customers' missions, which gave OWS forecasters an accurate picture of what it's like working at a WF - all expressed excitement about the prospect of directly supporting fighter and special ops missions. One of the team's highlights was watching the F-22s take off and land at Tyndall AFB, Fla. Visiting team member, Senior Airman Daniel Reichert exclaimed, "After being at a hub for nearly three and a half years, and with my re-enlistment date approaching, visiting weather flights was a great opportunity to see how things operate in the weather career field outside the OWS. It was rewarding to see how our products are used to provide support for the flying customers."
In addition to mission briefings at each location, Mr. Jeff Gould at Fort Benning, Ga., also explained their MEF Verification program that allowed them to evaluate MEF accuracy and MEFP process deficiencies to attain maximum operational focus. After the visits, Mr Gould wrote, "I was glad to see the young forecasters making their rounds and getting a better feel of whom and what they are supporting."
At each location, team members met with operations support squadron commanders and directors of operations to discuss a myriad of issues. The team found growing support as leaders became more familiar with the distinct, but symbiotic roles of the WF and OWS forecasters. In addition, all weather flight leaders were glad to see the OWS forecasters visiting their units to improve teamwork and obtain an operational perspective.
"WF and OWS operations cannot be successful without an awareness of each others' responsibilities to incorporate weather information at the warfighter level to ensure safe operations while at the same time mitigating operational impacts," said Maj. Steve Vilpors, the Tyndall WF commander. Major Vilpors attended the WF Open House and then hosted the 9th OWS team. "Our intent is to continue to host WF Open Houses and conduct WF visits to keep the communication lines humming," he said.