Eye of the Storm - Hurricane fanatic to become hurricane hunter

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Kusek
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
To fly into a storm is crazy. Wanting to fly into a storm is near insanity. For one Barksdale lieutenant though, it's been a lifelong dream.
New Orleans native 2nd Lt. Doug Gautrau, from the 26th Operational Weather Squadron, has wanted to be a member of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron since tracking his first hurricane nearly 10 years ago. He's finally getting his chance as he's been accepted to become an aerial reconnaissance weather officer for the 53rd WRS.
"Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was the first hurricane I ever tracked," he said. "Since then, I've been curious about hurricanes and wanted to learn more."
Lieutenant Gautrau's coworker, 1st Lt. Doug Oltmer, lead meteorologist 26th OWS, said almost everyone involved in weather has a story linked to their childhood and Lieutenant Gautrau is no different.
"He's a nut about hurricanes," Lieutenant Oltmer said. "Ever since he tracked his first one he's been 'bit by the bug'."
After graduating from college in 2004, Lieutenant Gautrau tried to sign up for a slot with the hurricane hunters, but there were no full-time reservist positions available. Instead of sulking, he took his degree in atmospheric sciences and became an active duty weather officer.
Jump to three years later and lieutenants like Lieutenant Gautrau are now facing force shaping boards.
"Since I was first not able to sign up for the hurricane hunters I've kept in touch with them," he said. "When I heard there were slots opening for a full-time reservist, I took into consideration upcoming force shaping boards and wasted no time submitting my name."
Growing up in the Gulf Coast region, Lieutenant Gautrau got his fair share of hurricane experience. Last year when Hurricane Katrina rolled through the Mississippi and Louisiana area, his family was hit pretty hard.
"My family is stretched from New Orleans to Bay St. Louis, Miss.," he said. "Some family members only suffered wind damage where some came home to find only slabs of concrete where their houses once stood."
Though he and his family, alongside many others in the same area, have been through a difficult year, his reasons for joining the hurricane hunters remain the same as they did when he became interested in the giant storms more than 10 years ago. Lieutenant Oltmer said during last year's massive hurricane season, everyone in the 26th OWS got a lot of experience.
"We tracked the large storms that hit the gulf coast and had a direct impact on recovery operations before, during and after the storms hit," he said. "Everyone got a lot of experience and next time he (Lieutenant Gautrau) faces something this big he's going to be cool, calm and collected."
One of the benefits the lieutenant looks forward to is helping predict hurricanes and learning new things about the storms through their data collections. He also can't wait to get up close and personal to the storms.
"I've tracked well more than 150 hurricanes," Lieutenant Gautrau said. "The ultimate hurricane job is to fly through it and see its physical structure first hand. I can't wait for that adrenaline rush."