Team weathers the mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Levy Bland
  • 380th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron
In the desert it's hot and dry. You don't need to be a meteorologist to figure that out.

The Combat Weather Team at the 380th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron in Southwest Asia does more than provide heat stress condition levels, issue weather watches and warnings, and provide weather information for flying missions.

The four-person team of Tech. Sgt. Sharon Utsey and Staff Sergeants Levy Bland, Jamie Jenner and Jamica Smith provide around-the-clock weather support for the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The team's mission includes weather briefs and forecasts and providing status of current weather conditions that pose a hazard to Airmen or Air Force property.

"Providing timely and accurate weather (information) to our aircrews is our primary mission," said Sergeant Utsey, the team chief deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "The command staff is briefed each morning from the weather information we've gathered from products provided by the 28th Operational Weather Squadron and the joint Air Force and Army weather information network."

"Our job is not an exact science," said Sergeant Smith, a weather forecaster deployed from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. "But there is immediate job satisfaction when you get a forecast right."

The primary mission of the forecasters is to provide a mission execution forecast for all flying missions. In this capacity, the team provides pilots with information regarding weather conditions for takeoff, landing and every point in between throughout the U.S. Central Command Air Forces area of responsibility.

"There is no rule-of-thumb when it comes to weather forecasting here," said Sergeant Jenner, deployed from Beale AFB, Calif. "Desert conditions mixed with other environmental factors can cause a variety of weather conditions."

A weather specialist's mission may change from base to base. At one base a combat weather team may take observations and brief pilots; at another they may work in a solar observatory doing space weather. At the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, weather specialists may track typhoons in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Air Force also provides all the weather support for the Army so Airmen are embedded in all major Army units.

"One of our job duties is the monitoring of the heat stress index," Sergeant Jenner said. "This is done with an instrument called a heat stress monitor. The monitor has a wet bulb reservoir for water, a shielded dry bulb and removable sensors. It provides a readout of humidity, temperature, and radiant heat conditions. The readout determines the heat stress level guide for physical activity and required amount of water intake."

Another instrument used to measure weather conditions is the AN/TMQ-53 Tactical Meteorological Observing System.

"The TMQ-53 is an instrument with multiple sensors that collects data regarding the present weather condition in its environment," said Sergeant Utsey. "It is capable of monitoring wind, temperature, humidity, cloud height and precipitation and it can detect lightning."

The team also supports the U-2 with standard weather support as well as space weather to inform the pilot of any radiation events occurring in space. In addition, the team is called on to communicate with airborne pilots via UHF radio to relay weather information for their landing.

Helping the team accomplish its mission here are weather forecasters from Shaw AFB, S.C., who handle all forecasting for the CENTAF AOR, and the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB, Neb., who provide hemispheric model data and compilation of space weather data. Together, this team provides weather support to warfighters that is second to none.