Using their specialized meteorology skills, Air Force weather forecasters from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing helped Army assets utilize Mother Nature during a month-long, rotation at the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, Calif.
As the U.S. Army’s sole weather support asset, these Air Force weathermen ramped up their operations from Feb. 19-23 in the Mojave Desert by advising, training and assisting Army units to enhance interoperability and assure mission success.
“We have to fully integrate with the Army to provide their sole weather support since they don’t have their own capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Byrne, 3d Air Support Operations Group, Detachment 3 staff weather operator. “To fully integrate, we go on exercises and trainings like these to (embed) with the Army.”
“It feels like we’re actually in the Army at times and that helps to integrate with the units that we’ll be potentially deploying with downrange,” Byrne added. “Knowing the pilots and ground troops by name enhances familiarity and trust, which makes a huge difference on the battlefield.”
Having an arsenal of game-changing tactics in battle was paramount during the training rotation with weather playing a significant role every day.
“Weather impacts every individual in a mission,” said Staff Sgt. Kristopher Day-Bottai, 3d ASOG weather forecaster. “Everything is sensitive around weather because (environmental conditions) can enable, limit or cancel a mission. Even if the weather isn’t detrimental to a mission or determines a different outcome, everyone wants to know the temperature and what to expect and we provide that.”
For Day-Bottai, assessing weather details from the ground and high-altitude levels gives the Army personnel a huge advantage in maneuvering the landscape and atmosphere. He added that focusing on a myriad of weather aspects have proven to be invaluable from World War II’s “D-Day” up until now.
“We’ve seen plenty of times where weather has given aircraft and ground forces trouble and mission planning was altered for safety,” said Day-Bottai. “To keep assets safe, we primarily focus on assessing visibility, sky conditions and wind factors. We also collect temperature, pressure, dew point and lighting location information for, not only ourselves, but other units to help define their forecasts.”
According to Day-Bottai, determining the forecast is often one of the most challenging aspects due to the unpredictable nature of weather.
“We have planned forecasts but if predictions were always right, we wouldn’t need to adjust,” Day-Bottai added. “There’s been immediate instances where before a mission, I had to notify an air traffic control tower and send out a weather update to ground a bunch of aircraft, which saves assets.”
Relying on swift decision-making like this was key for the participating Army units to successfully fight against mock insurgents and frigid temperatures in the desert.
As soldiers defended the ground from adversaries in the desert and aircraft navigated the windy, mountainous Southeastern Californian border, forecasters weathered the storm. Although they weren’t entrenched directly in combat, they helped the fight by accurately assessing Mother Nature to keep assets and lives safe.