6th OSS weather flight—vital to mission success

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shandresha Mitchell
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
The mission of the Airmen in the 6th Operations Support Squadron weather flight is vital to the success of the 6th Air Mobility Wing's aerial refueling mission, as well as the safety of personnel and protection of base assets.

"Our mission is to brief the weather to our customers, as well as the pilots or other individuals performing various tasks on base," commented Staff Sgt. Clifton McGhar, 6th OSS weather forecaster. "This allows individuals to better plan when and where they are going to conduct their activities."

The weather flight typically prepares numerous amounts of 175-1s, a weather document given to pilots prior to a flight; however, their tasks can range from giving base personnel information about winds to what time of day they predict it will rain.

"We work really hard to stay on top of watches, warnings and advisories, some of which are very serious," said McGhar. "Anytime we issue a watch or a warning, it kicks into effect a series of events where people have to protect the resources and assets; so it's really important that we get WWAs out in a timely manner and try to be as accurate as possible with the timing of these events."

Monitoring changing weather conditions, which is not an exact science, can be challenging. So the Airmen stay continuously engaged in their tasks throughout the day. They use an FMQ-19 out on the airfield. This device uses its sensors to collect real time data, which is displayed within the section. They also continuously monitor radar for new storm cells that may pop up.

McGhar explained how the display through the internet called Joint Environmental Toolkit operates. Through JET, they can issue the WWAs to other agencies and customers who can benefit from the information.

The weather Airmen ensure any changing weather conditions are communicated to the proper agencies. If a sudden thunderstorm is forming, that they weren't expecting six hours ago, it will initiate calls, whether it be base operations relaying the message through the crash phone to everyone or command post sending out emails and notifications.

"We receive a lot of thunderstorms in this area; new cells pop up all the time," said McGhar. "We have to monitor them to see what the severity could be, what they could produce, and whether they are producing anything at the moment."

At MacDill, hurricane season can lead to more of the weather flight's limited resources being used for monitoring.

"We are not a 24/7 flight; however, we will be here on 12-hour shifts during a hurricane because it's so important that we keep track of what's going on," stated McGhar. "Even if the hurricane isn't directly coming into the base, the people here want to be briefed, commanders and etc., on what the effects are going to be."

Tech. Sgt. Christian Boyer, 6th OSS weather flight chief, explained the difference between forecasting and observation, and how they are integral in the success of the mission and the wing's functionality.

Observations include visual and manual observations to record what is occurring at that moment and monitoring any changes from hour to hour. Forecasting uses all the tools and resources to predict in several hours or a few days what the weather conditions may be and what to expect.

The information provided by the weather flight allows leadership to know what course of action to take ahead of time. Leadership may have to plan and implement various procedures based on the information provided, so weather is very important and integral to planning any mission.

"We brief the wing leadership daily on weather forecasts and provide the WWAs to the base populace," commented Boyer. "It's for the safety of personnel as well as the protection of our assets."