SWO: Forecasts factor in mission execution
August 24, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Three staff weather officers provided Task Force Wings (4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division) with weather updates and forecasts during a Joint Operations Aviation Exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 20-29.
The SWO team monitors the weather in the task force's tactical operations center to keep pilots and their crews updated on the latest weather forecasts and apprised of changes in conditions while they are on mission.
"We are here to provide accurate weather forecasts and tailor them to the mission," said Air Force Senior Airman Jacob Hale, a battlefield weather forecaster who deployed with Task Force Wings from Fort Campbell, Ky., for the training. "Depending upon where the pilots are going and what they are tasked to do -- air assaults, paratrooper jumps, or slingloading -- determines whether or not the aircraft is able to take off."
By certain Army regulations, pilots are unable to fly aircraft when the ceilings are too low and when the visibility is minimal.
"The weather the SWO provides pretty much sets the tone for the mission," said Capt. Alan Overmyer, the commander for Company A, 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment. "Whether we are going to conduct a deliberate attack or reconnaissance, weather sets the tone for the day -- good weather, we fly, but when there is bad weather, we don't fly. SWO is a critical force element for aviation, and the mission would not be as successful without them."
Task Force Wings relies on the SWO to determine what the ceiling and visibility limits are by factoring in all weather conditions.
"We use the TMP-53, which is meteorological equipment that has a sensor to factor the wind speed, temperature, air pressure, humidity, visibility, present weather, and lightening," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Quimby, a battlefield weather forecaster attached to Task Force Wings. "Our job is to protect the troops and their equipment from incident by using our skills, and we take pride in it."
The SWO team's successful execution of weather forecasts and essential assessments on weather safety for helicopter flight directly impacts Task Force Wings' ability to execute the mission safely.