News: Air Guard forecasting for the Joint Force
Story by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
CAMP SWIFT, Texas – Ten members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 209th Weather Flight, based at Camp Mabry, in Austin, conducted training at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, March 2-3, 2013.
The flight is a geographically separated unit of the Texas Air Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, and provides weather planning and forecasting services for state and federal missions.
“We support the [Texas Army National Guard’s] 36th Infantry Division, and their subordinate brigades and battalions, but we also do work as part of the Texas Military Forces All-Hazards Plan,” said Maj. Paul E. Buschow of Hutto, the flight’s commander and the staff weather officer for the division. “We provide the Joint Operations Center with meteorological planning and support, which also includes sending teams downrange to wherever the civil disaster may be.”
“It’s a unique situation,” Buschow said. “The Army doesn’t have their own weather folks.”
Since 9/11, Buschow said members of the flight have deployed about every other year in support of Army operations, including service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
This two-daylong training is being conducted to fulfill quarterly and annual requirements, Buschow said. Further, the training is helping prepare members of the flight that are scheduled to deploy to Southwest Asia later this year to support the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, which began deploying assets to the region in February.
“We give pilots and command current weather and forecasted weather in the combat environment,” said Tech. Sgt. Omar Lopez of San Angelo, one of the flight’s weather forecasters and observers. “We do the same thing for hurricane support or any kind of civil emergency.”
Among other things, the flight set up a tactical meteorological observing system, and used laser range finders and pocket weather trackers during daytime and nighttime operations.
“This equipment measures all the environmental terrain, all the meteorology that’s on the surface of the earth,” Buschow said. “We have the temperature, dew point, cloud heights, visibility, [and] wind speed direction.”
The flight’s equipment is rugged and durable, Lopez said, and is able to withstand all types of weather, from extreme cold to blistering heat and all forms of precipitation.
“With a little tender, love and care, it will last for a long, long time,” Lopez said.
The scientific data they provide can be used to develop a tailored weather report for senior leaders to have when planning missions for air and ground operations in a specific area, Lopez said.
“We train with the same equipment that the active duty force trains with,” Buschow said. “So, we can go shoulder-to-shoulder with our active duty counterparts when we’re deployed.”
Additionally, the weather career field blends academic challenges in a bivouac environment.
The typical weather troop has an interest in math and science, as well as the outdoors, they said. Members of the flight have to be ready for anything, and have to be adaptable to meet the Army’s requirements and needs.
“Weather is fun,” Lopez said. “Doing Army support is something different, it’s not the typical Air Force job.”