Weathering RED FLAG-Alaska 16-1
By Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor, 354th Fighter Wing public affairs
/ Published May 06, 2016
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Alaska’s weather can change in the blink of an eye, and although weather conditions may not always be clear, one team ensures pilots are not clouded on what the weather will be like once they’re up in the air.
Members of the 354th Operations Support Squadron teamed up with augmentees from participating units during RED FLAG-Alaska to observe and report weather.
“Our operations tempo is much higher during the exercise and we couldn’t complete the RED FLAG mission without the help from other units,” said Staff Sgt. Cameron Schneider, the 354th OSS NCO in charge of airfield operations. “If we had to cover this by ourselves, we would be working 16 hour days, so we are really grateful for the assistance.”
While the home station weather flight records and passes along the weather information, augmentees from Kadena Air Base, Japan, build slides to brief the pilots before each sortie.
“Our job is to support between 12 and 20 flights for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson,” said Staff Sgt. Joey Putis, an 18th OSS weather forecaster assigned to Kadena Air Base, Japan. “The pilots can’t take off without us, so the pressure to do our job perfectly is always there.”
Putis uses the slogan, “Big bubble, no trouble,” which means there’s a bubble of high pressure around the area that makes for a clear day, pilot’s ideal flying condition. The first days of RED FLAG brought rain, but this isn’t the worst weather an aircraft can experience in the Alaskan elements.
“The nastiest thing the pilots might encounter here in Alaska is icing,” said Putis. “This is when cold air combines with precipation to build up ice on an aircraft, which can affect its ability to fly. The pilots from Kadena don’t normally see weather like this, so it is important that we deliver as accurate of a forecast as possible because these pilots’ lives are in our hands.”