Most of you are domino pushers

  • Published
  • By Col. Tom Frooninckx
  • 1st Weather Group Commander
That's right, domino pushers. Recognize it and take pride in it. I do.

Okay, what am I talking about? I'm referring to the awesome responsibility of operational weather squadrons, combat weather flights, special operations weather teams, and all other organizations producing weather information.

When you provide an analysis or forecast, a chain reaction of decisions and actions occurs, and a series of events unfolds which resembles a path of falling dominos. Aircrews, ground forces, mission schedulers, maintenance troops, fuels specialists, civil engineers, command posts, installation commanders, and many others make decisions and take actions which, in turn, lead to further decisions and actions. Eventually the last domino falls, representing mission success or failure.

Although there may be twists and turns, the destiny of the entire path is at the mercy of the first domino, pushed by a weather forecaster. Was it pushed in the right direction with the right amount of force? If you've ever watched a string of dominos fall, you know it moves quickly once it starts and can split into multiple paths with little opportunity to alter the course. Whether the path is long or short, simple or complex, it is first and foremost triggered by someone who pushes the first domino.

Here's one example to illustrate the point. A forecast is issued in the morning for widespread thunderstorms to occur in the late afternoon. Aircrews who are scheduled to fly in the late afternoon and the troops who support those sorties await decisions by the schedulers or the unit commander. Do they reschedule the mission for an earlier or later time in the day, or do they stick with the original plan and risk ground or air aborts? If they stick with the original schedule, when will the aircraft be fueled? When will lightning be too close? Are the weather forecasts for nearby airfields suitable as alternates? If they choose to reschedule earlier or later, whose duty schedule will be changed at the last minute to support those missions? And what family plans will be affected as a result?

Now, consider a few wintertime dominos. Does the civil engineering snow-removal team stand-up or stand-down? Are flight operations adjusted or canceled? Does the wing commander send people home? Did anyone get into an auto accident because of road conditions?

And finally, consider wartime dominos. Does the air operations center proceed as planned and risk not achieving the objective because of weather? Is there another strike package available to launch from another base? Is a wholesale change to the Air Tasking Order necessary? Are enough tankers available to support a different schedule? What changes are needed to ensure ground maneuver forces are synchronized with air support? These decisions, actions, and events represent a fraction of the number of dominos that fall in response to just one analysis or forecast.

Unfortunately, we typically don't see all these dominos fall [this is one of the greatest frustrations of being in the weather career field]. Worse yet, we're not even aware of every domino that is falling. We're oblivious to most of what happens after we issue a forecast. Even combat weather flights at the pointiest end of the spear aren't aware of every domino. Here's the key: you must trust that the dominos are indeed falling, and thus you must treat every analysis and forecast as if it is the most important domino you've pushed- even the easiest forecast issued on a lazy Sunday night can have enormous impacts.

So, when you tell your family or friends what your job is in the Air Force, don't tell them you're a weather forecaster. Instead, tell them you're a domino pusher. Then explain it. Explain how you are responsible for triggering a path of decisions, actions, and events, and describe how that path ultimately leads to mission success or failure depending on how well you push the first domino. Don't forget to mention that the final domino can be death and destruction for the bad guys, and safety and victory for the good guys. And, finally, remind them very few people get to push the first domino.

Be proud that you push the first domino -- I am.