Warriors of Weather
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, NM – How many times have you been sitting at your desk, when all of a sudden, an advisory notification pops up in some random color letting you know something about the weather outside courtesy of ReachPlus?
Have you ever wondered just where that information was coming from? While the command post is tasked with forwarding the information base wide, its troops with the 27th Special Operations Support Squadron weather flight that are forecasting the weather to meet the mission requirements for Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.
"We are a 24 hour shop and we operate seven days a week" said Tech. Sgt. Sara Meyer, 27 SOSS weather forecaster. "While we track weather within 200 nautical miles of Cannon, we have the capability to monitor systems on a global level. We also forecast for resource protection, not just aviation."
Forecasters under the 27th Special Operations Wing deal largely with resource protection. Any weather systems that directly impact the base or personnel is tracked up to the minute by the weather flight and is reported to wing leadership.
"Let's say the winds unusually high on the flightline, we need to report that to the maintainers so they don't endanger themselves by walking on aircraft wings while performing inspections," said Meyer. "We also notify base personnel of extreme temperatures to avoid things like frostbite or heat exhaustion in applicable seasons."
Troops with the weather flight work with advanced equipment to aide them in their predictions. They are able to use these tools to gage things like wind, temperature, pressure and humidity. They also have more advanced gear to detect lightning, air visibility, cloud coverage, winds and barometric pressure.
"Oftentimes, what happens early in the upper atmosphere doesn't come to fruition until much later in the afternoon," said Meyer. "Some of the devices we utilize, like weather balloons, help us paint a picture of the higher elevations to more accurately forecast and predict severe storms or fog at the surface."
Pilots stationed at Cannon rely heavily on the weather flight to determine how well they will be able to fly and navigate through the surrounding areas of the base. Newer, less seasoned pilots may not be as comfortable dealing with lower levels of visibility or certain density of cloud coverage.
Mobility and readiness are two factors weather troops also deal with regularly. The majority of their job lies heavily on the ability for them to take all of their gear and equipment with them and operate autonomously from any location.
"When we deploy, we should be able to land, quickly take an observation and post those observations within minutes," said 1st Lt. Madeline Crosson, 27 SOSS flight commander. "We recently had to transport a Doppler unit down range to aid as a forecasting resource. Teaching weather forecasters how to use the equipment is another huge part of our job as forecasters under the 27th Special Operations Wing."
The weather flight utilizes the Next Generation Radar out at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M., to gain clear visual images of weather vectors in the atmosphere.
"The radar works by sending frequency signals at different directions and degrees of elevation that bounce off particulates in the atmosphere and are sent back down to be processed into a graphics user interface," said Meyer. "We collect and use that data to gain a better understanding of weather developments."
U.S. Air Force weather forecasters also support the aviation resources of the U.S. Army, which does not have its own forecasters. They provide resource protection for the Army to include ground operations in support of missions stateside and overseas.
"I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, for three years before coming to Cannon," said Staff Sgt. Phillip Tori, 27 SOSS weather forecaster. "I trained in Army operations and forecasted with limited resources. In hostile territory, forecasters work side-by-side with Army command and provide rapid forecasts for critical situations such as medical evacuations for wounded soldiers and attacks or captures on high priority targets."
Air Force weather forecasters go wherever Army aviation goes. The ability to forecast weather effects on Air Force assets as well as Army assets makes weather troops highly versatile.
Because of their qualifications and unique AFSOC mission, weather troops are frequently pulled for assisting in gathering information during natural disasters worldwide.
"Information is power and the information we are providing is pivotal to execution of our flying missions," said Meyer. "We are extremely accurate in the forecasts we put out and are able to tailor geographical weather information collected directly to our military personnel."