Weather Whether Flight or Fight
By by Staff Sgt. Laura Tickle, 145th Airlift Wing
/ Published April 28, 2021
Charlotte Air National Guard Base, NC --
Practice makes perfect! Ten members of the 156th Weather Flight conduct a portion of their annual position qualification training in both weather skills and Army warrior skills while at their regional training site, April 11, 2021.
The 156th Weather Flight, while supporting the North Carolina Air National Guard through natural disasters and the like, mainly support five Army Units: three Brigades, one of which is from New Jersey, and 2 Battalions (one in North Carolina, one in Georgia). They have also been tasked to support the 169th Fighter Wing with the South Carolina Air National Guard.
“The training we are doing is a small portion of our position qualification recertification,” states 156 Weather Flight Meteorological Technician, Master Sgt. Jennifer Powell, “Each year we have to maintain proficiency in both Army Warrior Skills, (such as driving a HMMWV or being a member of a convoy, operating a radio, or performing Land Navigation) and Weather skills recertification (setting up our tactical meteorological observation equipment, creating a tactical visibility chart for an airfield, and selecting a field operations location that’s suitable for a weather team to operate) that’s just naming a few tasks of the many we accomplish!
The training for the 156th Weather Flight is conducted a few times a year to ready the members for their qualification and keep them in a heightened and ready state of response.
“There are two teams, so one team will be providing ground weather support, such as would be provided to an infantry brigade, and the other team will be the aviation support unit – such as what is provided to a helicopter battalion,” states Powell. “We will be setting up equipment, performing observations, creating tactical visibility charts that help gauge when precipitation or obscurations like fog reduce visibility, and creating weather products such as verbal or written forecasts.”
Ten may not seem like a large number but small can be mighty and impactful.
“Members are adapting easily to working in groups of varying sizes, and are also proactive when it comes to completing tasks to accomplish the mission,” Powell reflects, “My team didn’t need any formal delegation as far as duties for this specific mission was concerned. While two people set up equipment, one person performed a weather observation, and another did a tactical visibility chart. The benefit of being such a small unit is that we work together frequently and we know each other so well we can anticipate what needs to be done next without being told. Members also know each other well enough to know individual strengths and weaknesses to more efficiently get everything done.”
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows while training; every now and then an obstacle may occur that helps keep the 156th Weather flight on their toes.
“We have only one solar-powered generator for laptop and other equipment power. This made the two teams have to set up pretty close to one another, but we each stuck to our different missions,” states Powell. “We realized that it would be best had we planned ahead of time in terms of getting our internet bookmarks set up, understanding exactly what missions each team had disseminated to each member, and bringing extra monitors and mice out to the site would have been way more efficient!”
Training multiple times a year through situations allow for the team to asses what works, what doesn’t, and what can be implemented in the future to provide a better outcome for later training so that when real-world situations arise, they are at their best.
“Better preparation the day before – a power point presentation and handouts to each team to ensure everyone knows the missions and timelines for each forecast product,” are included in Powell’s assessment of what will enhance their productivity in future trainings, “As well as an equipment list so we don’t forget anything – down to an extra monitor and mouse!”
Over the last few years North Carolina, as well as local Eastern coastal states, have seen severe flooding and damages due to hurricanes in the late summer season. The 156th weather flight is instrumental in tracking and relaying weather changes; staying current in training is crucial for situations like these.
“It [training] better prepares us for the conditions we experience with the Army during our annual trainings, deployment exercises, and state active duty situations when disaster response is warranted,” states Powell. “We are usually set up in a Tactical Operations Center in a remote airfield or location and are working in a tent with other Army personnel. We usually have to adjust our services or troubleshoot equipment when there might not be access to internet or if there are issues with gaining power to supply our equipment, or our equipment may not work! It’s good to run into those bumps so it’s experienced before the real support is required, and a team can better react. If we train like we “fight” then we can be better prepared when it’s time to forecast for real missions whether that be weather for a medical evacuation on the fly, or planned convoy operations.”