NCO manages weather forecast ops in Southwest Asia

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
At the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing there are Airmen who help make sure the C-130 Hercules aircraft and their crews are ready for the next mission and those Airmen don't work in maintenance nor are they aircrew members. They are weather forecasters like Staff Sgt. Ashley Barnett.

Barnett is deployed with the 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, 386th AEW, at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. She is deployed from Air Mobility Command's 305th Operations Support Squadron, 305th Air Mobility Wing, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

Headquartered at Joint Base MDL, the 305th AMW "extends America's global reach" by generating, mobilizing and deploying 32 KC-10 Extender and 13 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to conduct strategic airlift and air refueling missions worldwide, according to the wing's fact sheet. Additionally, the 305th AMC operates two of America's "largest strategic aerial ports supporting the delivery of cargo and personnel to combatant commanders abroad."

As a weather forecaster with the 386th AEW, Barnett helps oversee daily how weather might affect the wing's main mission of providing airlift support throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility supporting operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. The staff sergeant described her role in supporting deployed weather operations in a news report from 386th AEW Public Affairs.

"Weather is just hard to predict in the desert," Barnett said in the news report by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres. "There is this weird phenomenon that happens in this environment, and it's completely different than what we see at home station. Predicting weather is not an exact science, and there is a lot to learn in the first few days after getting here."

To do her job -- either while deployed or at home station, Barnett performs and manages the collection, analysis and forecast of atmospheric and space weather conditions, according to her official Air Force job description for a weather forecaster. She also manages the tailoring and communication of weather information.

The job description states Barnett is trained to use fixed and deployable meteorological sensors to measure and evaluate atmospheric and space weather conditions. She can use satellite and radar imagery, computer generated graphics and weather communication equipment and instruments to analyze atmospheric and space data and information.

Barnett is also trained to issue warnings and advisories to alert users to mission-critical weather, the job description states. She also exploits weather analysis and data to enhance combat operations and training, tailors and communicates weather information to meet operational requirements, and ensures standardization and quality weather products, operations and activities.

Weather forecasters like Barnett also have to maintain mandatory job knowledge is a plethora of areas to stay proficient in their job, the job description shows. Those areas include combat weather skills, characteristics and principles of atmospheric and space weather, and observation, analysis, prediction and dissemination of weather information. They also have to know about the operation of fixed and deployable meteorological or space weather systems, weather communications systems, use of weather products and operator maintenance of weather equipment and instruments.

Through all the work she has to do, Barnett noted that her favorite part of her deployed job is supporting the aircrews flying combat airlift missions.

"Briefing the aircrew about weather conditions gives me the most job satisfaction," Barnett said in the news report. "They know they can trust us, and I think that's the best part of what we do here."

The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, located at an air base in Southwest Asia, is the primary tactical airlift hub for re-supply missions supporting coalition operations in Iraq and provides combat service support to land component forces throughout the Persian Gulf Region and Iraq, the 386th AEW Web site shows. The wing is comprised of the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group, 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group, 386th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, and 387th Air Expeditionary Group and includes approximately 2,400 active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen.

(Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this report.)