Welcome to the jungle: forecaster supports counterdrug operations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
He didn't know where it was to or what it was for, but when Charleston, S.C., native Tech. Sgt. Adrian Jackson heard about a short-notice tasking to deploy, he volunteered immediately.

Jackson volunteered he having only been on-station two months.

"Because he was new to base, he was ineligible to deploy for six months, however he wanted to go, so he worked to make it happen," said his supervisor 1st Lt. Richelle Greer, 52nd Fighter Wing weather officer from Antipolo, Philippines.

With his supervisor's approval, Jackson got a waiver to deploy.

He found out he was going to Apiay Air Base, Colombia, to support the Colombian air force with the U.S. Army's 204th Military Intelligence Battalion as a weather operator. The battalion works with Colombian forces to conduct counterdrug operations.

To prepare, he had to act fast.

Greer said that Jackson worked seven-days-a-week and completed computer based training while on leave to get all pre-deployment tasks completed in time.

Jackson is now deep in the Colombian countryside where little to no English is spoken supporting the 204th MIB by providing up-to-the-minute weather data, forecasts and analysis so the battalion can successfully conduct reconnaissance and surveillance.

Greer, who previously deployed to Apiay AB, thought that he was "a good candidate for the job." She described him as a very competent NCO and detailed weather forecaster, which is important in any weather shop, but especially in this two-person shop.

"Forecasting the weather in Colombia is a challenge for many reasons," Jackson said of the weather that includes severe thunderstorms, cyclones, unpredictable winds and extreme temperatures. "The mountainous terrain, radar coverage, language barriers, different combat operations and hostile ground forces only add to the challenges. Weather forecasters here must use all of their training to provide sound, proficient support to accomplish the mission."

Because the weather changes so frequently and the mission is heavily impacted by it, the shop is always on-call. This means that one of the two forcasters must always be on the base. When they do go off base, they must be accompanied by U.S. Army counter-intelligence officers and must be in an up-armored vehicle. This is due to the threat the mission poses against narcotic-terrorist groups in the area, said Jackson.

"If he is called to forecast for a mission and finds there is going to be a thunderstorm, the mission is most likely a no-go, so the weather dictates the mission for the most part," Greer said. "You have to have a reliable forecaster to know if it's safe to do the mission. For him to be able to adjust his knowledge and portray his expertise is testament to his abilities.

"You can send him anywhere in the world and he'll do great things," Greer said.

With three months left, Greer is convinced Jackson is more than ready to work through whatever challenges the jungle's weather throws his way.