Deployed Forces: SWO ‘operationalizes’ weather for TF Wings’ mission

| June 25, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

Senior Airman Deonta Brooks, weather forecaster, staff weather team, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron, supporting Task Force Wings, performs preventative maintenance on a tactical meteorological observing system, also known as a TMQ-53, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq, June 4. CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Imagine a blinding, gusting wall of sand and dust 5,000 to 8,000 feet high, spanning 60 to 90 miles, moving at a rate of 35 to 60 kilometers an hour.

That describes a “haboob,” an Arabic word for a type of intense sandstorm common to Iraq–a sandstorm that can have a devastating impact on aviation operations.

Now, imagine a pilot’s relief in receiving a tactical instant message from a staff weather officer, or SWO, miles away that advises the pilot of an approaching haboob in time to avoid it. 

That is what is referred to as “operationalizing” weather – mitigating the impact of weather on Army aviation operations by forecasting and interpreting weather systems and data in real time – and that is what Task Force Wings’ staff weather team does here, 24/7.

According to Capt. Erica Haas, SWO, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron supporting TF Wings, her core team of six Airmen conduct around-the-clock operations in order to do more than simply forecast weather.

“While our job includes forecasting weather, we don’t simply provide data,”  Haas said. “We take data and transform it into useable information so that the brigade commander can accomplish his mission. In fact, being integrated into tactical aviation operations is really where we add the most value to the task force.

“We know how weather affects operations. As a result, we are able to assist those who make operational decisions mitigate those effects,” Haas continued. “We reduce the frequency that pilots fly into dangerous weather conditions. In that sense, we provide an awareness that enables missions to be conducted more safely and effectively.”

The weather team accomplishes its mission by relying on field observations and by using computer-generated models and satellite images. Also, the team employs a variety of tactical equipment, to include a Blue Force Tracker and a tactical meteorological observing system, also known as a TMQ-53. The TMQ-53 is used to obtain pressure, wind speed and direction, temperature, dew point, relative humidity, precipitation, surface visibility, cloud height and lightning detection. 

Haas’ weather team also conducts forward area limited observer program, or FALOP, training.

FALOP training uses Airmen to teach Soldiers how to perform weather observations and relay pertinent data to the SWO from strategic locations in northern Iraq. 

According to Haas, having qualified weather observers in strategic locations is paramount as U.S. forces draw down and reduce their numbers throughout Iraq. 

Maj. Jeffrey Poquette is one of two of TF Wings’ chief of operations in charge of synchronizing the day-to-day efforts of the brigade-level tactical operations. Brigade operations include 

intelligence, lethal and nonlethal fire support and effects, and all manned and unmanned brigade flight operations. Poquette provides situational awareness for the brigade commander for all aviation assets in U.S. Division-North. 

“Weather is one of our biggest threats, the thing that can place us in dangerous situations,” Poquette said. “For that reason, the weather team’s presence in our tactical operations center is absolutely invaluable. 

Poquette, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and 10-year veteran on his second combat deployment in support of the overseas contingency operation, knows firsthand the value that the SWO team adds to aviation operations.“The weather team knows and understands 

our various aviation missions, and they are able to evaluate 

the weather in conjunction with those missions and tell us where the impacts are. They are far more than mere providers of raw weather data,” Poquette said.

“In addition, they provide their analysis to us and to our pilots in ‘real-time.’ I can tell you as an aviator that having real-time access to weather information removes the concern that our pilots and air crews are receiving inaccurate or incomplete weather information which can put them in dangerous situations,” Poquette concluded.

According to Poquette, TF Wings’ weather team is the best he has ever worked with.  Haas credits her team’s success to the high quality of her noncommissioned officers and junior Airmen.

Two of those Airmen are Master Sgt. Paul Rogers, weather forecaster and staff weather team noncommissioned officer in charge, 22nd EWXS, and Senior Airman Cassandra Napolitano-Romero, weather forecaster, 22nd EWXS. Both take pride in the value they add to Army aviation operations. 

Rogers is a 20-year veteran on his third combat deployment, all in support of the 25th CAB. He recalled how weather first intrigued him as a young Airman.

“Early in my career, an officer showed me a clear picture of the sky and explained to me that while there appears to be nothing happening, a dynamic existed — beyond what I could see — that was always changing the atmosphere,” he said. “The ‘unseen’ and having tools that can predict with a good degree of accuracy changes in the atmosphere instilled in me the desire to be a forecaster.”

Rogers has worked as a weather forecaster ever since. 

“I especially love working tactical operations,” Rogers said. “There are instances where I have been relied upon by a commander to identify a very brief window of opportunity in the weather for that unit to deliver resources to troops in need. With weather operations, you get those opportunities to help Soldiers in dire situations. 

“That’s when you know you add value,” he continued. “That’s why I do this job.”

Rogers’ love of his work is shared by Napolitano-Romero, who is on her first combat deployment. 

“I have never experienced job satisfaction like I have experienced with Task Force Wings,” she said. “Out here, you know that the work you are doing is being relied upon by pilots and staff. You also know they appreciate that work and that you are making a difference every day. That’s rewarding.” 

Story and Photo byStaff Sgt. Mike Alberts25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry DivisionCONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Imagine a blinding, gusting wall of sand and dust 5,000 to 8,000 feet high, spanning 60 to 90 miles, moving at a rate of 35 to 60 kilometers an hour.That describes a “haboob,” an Arabic word for a type of intense sandstorm common to Iraq–a sandstorm that can have a devastating impact on aviation operations. Now, imagine a pilot’s relief in receiving a tactical instant message from a staff weather officer, or SWO, miles away that advises the pilot of an approaching haboob in time to avoid it. That is what is referred to as “operationalizing” weather – mitigating the impact of weather on Army aviation operations by forecasting and interpreting weather systems and data in real time – and that is what Task Force Wings’ staff weather team does here, 24/7.According to Capt. Erica Haas, SWO, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron supporting TF Wings, her core team of six Airmen conduct around-the-clock operations in order to do more than simply forecast weather.“While our job includes forecasting weather, we don’t simply provide data,”  Haas said. “We take data and transform it into useable information so that the brigade commander can accomplish his mission. In fact, being integrated into tactical aviation operations is really where we add the most value to the task force.“We know how weather affects operations. As a result, we are able to assist those who make operational decisions mitigate those effects,” Haas continued. “We reduce the frequency that pilots fly into dangerous weather conditions. In that sense, we provide an awareness that enables missions to be conducted more safely and effectively.”The weather team accomplishes its mission by relying on field observations and by using computer-generated models and satellite images. Also, the team employs a variety of tactical equipment, to include a Blue Force Tracker and a tactical meteorological observing system, also known as a TMQ-53. The TMQ-53 is used to obtain pressure, wind speed and direction, temperature, dew point, relative humidity, precipitation, surface visibility, cloud height and lightning detection. Haas’ weather team also conducts forward area limited observer program, or FALOP, training.FALOP training uses Airmen to teach Soldiers how to perform weather observations and relay pertinent data to the SWO from strategic locations in northern Iraq. According to Haas, having qualified weather observers in strategic locations is paramount as U.S. forces draw down and reduce their numbers throughout Iraq. Maj. Jeffrey Poquette is one of two of TF Wings’ chief of operations in charge of synchronizing the day-to-day efforts of the brigade-level tactical operations. Brigade operations include intelligence, lethal and nonlethal fire support and effects, and all manned and unmanned brigade flight operations. Poquette provides situational awareness for the brigade commander for all aviation assets in U.S. Division-North. “Weather is one of our biggest threats, the thing that can place us in dangerous situations,” Poquette said. “For that reason, the weather team’s presence in our tactical operations center is absolutely invaluable. Poquette, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and 10-year veteran on his second combat deployment in support of the overseas contingency operation, knows firsthand the value that the SWO team adds to aviation operations.“The weather team knows and understands our various aviation missions, and they are able to evaluate the weather in conjunction with those missions and tell us where the impacts are. They are far more than mere providers of raw weather data,” Poquette said.“In addition, they provide their analysis to us and to our pilots in ‘real-time.’ I can tell you as an aviator that having real-time access to weather information removes the concern that our pilots and air crews are receiving inaccurate or incomplete weather information which can put them in dangerous situations,” Poquette concluded.According to Poquette, TF Wings’ weather team is the best he has ever worked with.  Haas credits her team’s success to the high quality of her noncommissioned officers and junior Airmen.Two of those Airmen are Master Sgt. Paul Rogers, weather forecaster and staff weather team noncommissioned officer in charge, 22nd EWXS, and Senior Airman Cassandra Napolitano-Romero, weather forecaster, 22nd EWXS. Both take pride in the value they add to Army aviation operations. Rogers is a 20-year veteran on his third combat deployment, all in support of the 25th CAB. He recalled how weather first intrigued him as a young Airman.“Early in my career, an officer showed me a clear picture of the sky and explained to me that while there appears to be nothing happening, a dynamic existed — beyond what I could see — that was always changing the atmosphere,” he said. “The ‘unseen’ and having tools that can predict with a good degree of accuracy changes in the atmosphere instilled in me the desire to be a forecaster.”Rogers has worked as a weather forecaster ever since. “I especially love working tactical operations,” Rogers said. “There are instances where I have been relied upon by a commander to identify a very brief window of opportunity in the weather for that unit to deliver resources to troops in need. With weather operations, you get those opportunities to help Soldiers in dire situations. “That’s when you know you add value,” he continued. “That’s why I do this job.”Rogers’ love of his work is shared by Napolitano-Romero, who is on her first combat deployment. “I have never experienced job satisfaction like I have experienced with Task Force Wings,” she said. “Out here, you know that the work you are doing is being relied upon by pilots and staff. You also know they appreciate that work and that you are making a difference every day. That’s rewarding.” 

Category: Deployed Forces, News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *