News: Weather flight gets it right
Story by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi
SOUTHWEST ASIA --Every flying mission has to check the weather before taking off and knowing what the conditions are takes more work than tuning in to a local weather forecast.
Eight Airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather flight conduct around-the-clock weather support for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. They also provide in-flight weather updates and forecast weather conditions to keep pilots aware of Mother Nature during a mission.
"Forecasting bad weather conditions to a commander can be stressful when everyone else in the room has already given the thumbs up," said Master Sgt. Christopher Dunstone, the 379th EOSS weather flight chief. "When the weather isn't cooperating with everyone else's decision, sometimes the mission gets delayed. Even missions such as D-Day were delayed due to the weather. It is our responsibility to make sure pilots know what the weather conditions will be for takeoff, landing and where they are flying to ensure a safer flight."
The 379th EOSS weather flight localizes weather data which is provided by the 28th Operational Weather Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Utilizing weather charts, satellites images, weather balloons and weather sensors, Airmen can forecast weather conditions for up to a week.
"Knowing what the weather is going to be like is a science," Dunstone said. "We are good at predicting weather conditions and are very accurate two to three days out. However, after seven days, forecasting the weather can be more difficult."
Before making a prediction weather forecasters look at information including temperature, wind speed and direction, air pressure, cloud cover, visibility, dew point and contrails. The weather flight also helps pilots land and takeoff into the wind which creates lift.
According to Dunstone the best part of being a weatherman is the unpredictability of Mother Nature.
"We can have the same readings on two different days with completely different weather conditions," Dunstone said. "We are not always right, but we are one of the few jobs where we can be wrong and still get to keep our jobs."
Senior Airman Chase Blumberg, who is deployed here from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. and is a native of Ocala, Fla., said, "Getting to see our mission impact when we hear back from a pilot thanking us for the weather update makes us feel good. I love my job and I love forecasting weather."
Dunstone, who hails from Clovis, N.M., said, forecasting weather in a deployed environment can be more challenging than back in his duty station, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
"In the U.S. we have more data to look through and it makes it easier to forecast," Dunstone said. "Here we have areas where there is sparse ground weather information, but other than that we do the same mission as our duty stations. Most weather shops have more people than our eight-man team, which gives us all a little more work to do, but working in a closely knit shop makes deployments enjoyable."