BATURAJA, INDONESIA – A small team of U.S. Air Force staff weather officers is supporting Super Garuda Shield 2022 this month in Baturaja, Indonesia. Capt. O’Chun Jones, Staff Sgt. Joshua Evangelista, and Airman 1st. Class Isabella Northcutt, assigned to the 1st Combat Weather Squadron, Detachment 2 at Wheeler Army Air Field, support the U.S. mission in Indonesia by providing forecasts and weather inputs that affect operational planning for exercise events.
“We are looking at everything from the ground up,” said Capt. O’Chun Jones, officer in charge and staff weather officer, 1st Combat Weather Squadron, Detachment 2. “From personnel issues that could cause heat injuries or get slowed down in the jungle because of extra rain, to not being able to get an Apache off the ground because the ceilings are too low or thunderstorms are too close.”
Weather impacts every part of the mission, and real-time updates allow commanders to assess risk when conducting complex operations, like the airborne operations performed on the first day of Super Garuda Shield as part of the opening ceremony. Over 200 paratroopers from the 11th Infantry Division (Airborne), Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducted trilateral airborne operations with the 36th Airlift Squadron shortly after the opening ceremony of Super Garuda Shield on August 3, 2022.
Leading up to the airborne operations, Jones coordinated with the U.S. director of operations and partner nation forces participating in the event. Evangelista and Northcutt were positioned on the airfield collecting on-the-ground weather data to provide updates on the conditions at the drop zone throughout the day. Synchronizing between the command section and on-the-ground weather on the airfield, the SWO team was able to help make a weather call for the commander to greenlight the airborne operations to happen.
“In any mission execution, it comes down to commanders to assess the risk,” said Jones. “From the beginning to the end, weather plays an important role in forecasting critical data that impacts the overall risk assessment.”
Another team of SWOs is dedicated to supporting aviation weather requests. Staff Sgt. Alex Huffman, Staff Sgt. Jace Harter and Airman 1st Class Jordan Kimball assigned to the 1st Combat Weather Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, provide resource protection and support to the airfield in the Baturaja Training Area for the duration of Super Garuda Shield 2022. This team of SWOs briefs aircrew prior to their flights so that the pilots have the most up-to-date information on weather conditions before they take off.
“We have been working with aircrew supporting distinguished visitor flights in and out of the training area,” said Huffman. “We are looking forward to participating in the air assault exercise happening later this week supporting the UH-60M Blackhawks, but one of our most important missions here is 24-hour support for medical evacuation flights.”
Huffman, Harter, and Kimball are responsible for providing weather data to aircrews if a MEDEVAC flight out of the training area is needed. They provide tactical level weather support to several different aircraft and units operating in an environment with different weather conditions that U.S. aircrews may not be familiar with.
In exercise and deployed environments, SWOs advise and assist the multinational aviation and operational communities from a weather perspective. While supporting Super Garuda Shield, the SWO team works with partner nation forces to understand better what weather conditions may limit military operations.
“Our mission here at Super Garuda Shield is building joint partnership,” said Jones. “It's been a great experience; our interactions with other units here are stepping stones to strengthening our alliance with the TNI.”
Super Garuda Shield is a part of Operation Pathways and a longstanding annual, bilateral military exercise conducted between the U.S. military and Indonesia National Armed Forces, reinforcing the U.S. commitments to our allies and regional partners, joint readiness, and the interoperability to fight and win together.