Camp Bowie Training Center, Texas --
Staff Weather Officers (SWO) from the 3d Weather Squadron (WS) were put to the test during a Certification Field Exercise (CFX), July 28-Aug. 2, at Camp Bowie Training Center, Texas.
The CFX was designed to evaluate the squadron’s overall tactical ability and readiness to provide the U.S. Army with full spectrum environmental support to the Joint Task Force (JTF) fight.
“Weather’s bread and butter is task force aviation,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Raborn, 3d Weather Squadron CFX lead planner and overall evaluator. “Mainly, this is a mobilization exercise in training, so we are certifying that our entire squadron can mobilize at any moment into a near peer fight.”
The CFX brought together approximately 55 SWOs from the 3d WS’s geographically separated detachments (DET). This was a rare opportunity that gave their Airmen the chance to work together as an entire squadron to build camaraderie, learn and perfect each other’s skills.
“It’s been absolutely beneficial to bring all the detachments together,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Kegler, 3d WS DET 1 division weather operations section chief. “Getting the chance to understand someone else’s personality or practices that I may deploy with is key. Now, instead of starting at step zero when we get downrange with these Airmen, we’re already on step 2 or 3 and have already established a base foundation to work from.
“The biggest challenge we face at home station and downrange is the JTF integration piece, making sure the Army understands how we fit into their operations and that we are adequately equipped to help make them more lethal.”
While deployed, the Army relies on the 3d WS to provide them with current ground weather reports. These reports are then employed by commanders on the ground as they plan the best tactics and approaches to accomplish the mission.
“Throughout the exercise we required our Airmen to follow out the process of how to swiftly relay information to the Army consisting of: a situation report, commander’s update brief and operations intelligence brief,” said Maj. Scott Towlson, 3d WS director of operations. “We wanted to incorporate a lot of real world aspects that we more experienced Senior NCOs and officers have come to expect from the Army to help prepare our younger Airmen for what to expect in the future.
“That’s going to make the Army more lethal because we’re building trust, confidence and credibility,” Towlson added. “So when that Airman goes downrange and they’re asked a question by a specialist or aviator, it’s not the first time they’ve heard it.”
During the 5-day exercise SWOs were evaluated and qualified on: Tactical Operations Center procedures, Tactical Meteorological Operations Systems aptitude, rapid forward operating base mobility, Force on Force scenarios, counter improvised explosive device awareness, land navigation and self-aid buddy care.
“We wanted to expose everyone to a lot of the uncertainty that comes with a deployment and getting them out of their comfort zone,” said Towlson. “We had them on a 30-hour work cycle with very limited sleep to implement that chaos and fog of war dynamic to test their resiliency.”
While the CFX tested SWOs’ resiliency and endurance, it also immersed Airmen into all the aspects of what could come with a deployment.
“This exercise did a great job of giving us more of a baseline of how a contingent operation runs in totality,” said Airman 1st Class Shelby Spahar, 3d WS DET 3 weather forecaster. “A lot of times you can have tunnel vision on just the specifics of your job, but this exercise forced me to take into account everything else that could come with a deployment.”
The CFX was ultimately geared toward improving the 3d WS interoperability skills to continue to bolster their JTF mission.
“Our ability to work together as teams in garrison and when deployed (is key),” said Kegler. “The better we can synchronize our movements and our operations as a team the better we are at delivering actionable weather intelligence. Because that’s really the name of the game, we need to be able to arm the commanders with the intelligence that they need to go out and maximize the environmental effects, so they can eliminate our enemies or deliver aid.”
The 3d Weather Squadron, 557th Weather Wing, is post-level weather unit in the Air Force. The support provided by the squadron can have a significant impact on the Army customers it supports.
Army divisions, like the 1st Cavalry Division, rely on weather support from U.S. Air Force Combat Weather Airmen 3d WS.