JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
It’s a rainy day on the flight line. Clouds are hovering low to the ground and the smell of rain lingers in the air. Some Airmen work on the runway while others are fighting to support the mission from behind a screen. A sound breaks across the base, “Lighting within five, take cover.”
Ever wonder who’s in charge of checking how far away lightning is? It’s the weather flight! Their mission goes further than just checking the daily weather, and it’s for a very important reason.
“We provide timely and accurate weather forecasts to protect all assets on Joint Base Langley-Eustis,” said 1st Lt. Michael Koba, 1st Operations Support Squadron weather flight commander. “This includes 40 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 inventory.”
The weather flight is able to identify threats to the base and its populace. They communicate directly to the base and wing leaders to build forecasts in support of Langley and Fort Eustis.
“There isn’t a point in the employment of air power that weather Airmen do not have an impact,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Lowrey. “At a weather flight such as ours, we integrate weather intelligence into operation and mission planning to allow aircraft and assets to exploit atmospheric conditions and gain a competitive advantage over potential adversaries.”
Their training begins with an eight-month technical school, learning the basics of forecasting, completing weather products and observing and recording weather.
Each day comes with a routine and alters depending on what comes their way.
According to Staff Sgt. Arrann Barrett, it’s very important they stay on top of the weather consistently in the event they need to issue a watch, warning or advisory to the base.
“We spend all day observing the weather and pushing out what's called a METAR which is a single line of data that tells others what the current weather conditions are over the airfield
,” Barrett said. “We communicate with Air Traffic Control when weather is consistently changing and we keep the fighter pilots updated when the weather is changing.”
The team differs from a typical civilian forecaster in a multitude of ways.
“My team is expertly trained to deploy and be able to produce the highest quality forecasts, sometimes with limited data, at any location and in any environment around the world,” Koba said.
Weather Airmen need a solid understanding of the science behind weather to be able to build forecasts to brief pilots and leadership at all levels. Sometimes, they are called to perform in extreme conditions such as downrange.
Their expertise extends to other areas such as earthquakes, volcanoes and space weather. This knowledge is catered directly to what the customer needs and the location they are in.
“The weather team at JBLE is simply outstanding,” Koba said. “Each person has a unique background that makes us better. They are dedicated to the mission and strive to provide the best weather forecasts possible, no matter what the challenge - whether it is operating at two installations, [COVID-19], or mother nature who sometimes just will not cooperate.”
The Airmen in the weather career field; who specialize in weather, can take their unique knowledge to any aspect of the military and deliver pertinent information to whatever the mission may be.
Their dedication to the people and assets in the military reflects every day, rain or shine.