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NEWS | Aug. 1, 2012

437th OSS Weather Flight provides critical forecasts for JB Charleston

By Senior Airman Anthony Hyatt Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

In a location where weather can turn severe at a moment's notice, one team remains prepared to keep Team Charleston alert and ready for the always changing conditions around the base.

The 437th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight provides critical, timely and accurate weather intelligence in support of both the Joint Base Charleston - Air Base and Weapons Station. They also provide mission-execution briefings, seasonal climatology briefings and local weather familiarization briefings upon request.

The four-man shop consists of three staff sergeants, who are weather forecasters or Air Force Specialty Code 1W0X1s, and the flight chief.

Duties and Responsibilities

These 1W0X1s observe, record and disseminate weather data and information.

"Essentially, resource protection is what we do on a day-to-day basis," said Staff Sgt. Marlyn Daust, 437th OSS Weather Flight weather forecaster. "The 'lightning within five' or any kind of weather warning you receive is what we provide the base and aircraft. We're able to brief pilots, both on the ground and in the sky, from Georgia through North Carolina. We have a radio-communication system or Pilot-to-Metro Service we use to talk with pilots as they are flying their aircraft. This way we can give them up-to-the-minute weather, if they request it."

By using satellite and radar imagery, computer-generated graphics and weather-communication equipment and instruments, these weather forecasters can analyze atmospheric and space data and information.

"For the most part, we work cooperatively with the National Weather Service, the Federal Aviation Administration observer, and tower personnel," said Daust. "We use their real-time radar imagery nearly every day."

Also, the Weather Flight issues warnings and advisories to alert users to mission critical weather.

The Weather Flight works cooperatively with the regional forecasting office at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. They interact with at least one forecaster to form a better forecast, said Daust.

McPherson added, the back-up system allows for coverage 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

"Someone at Barksdale is always keeping an eye on JB Charleston and stands ready to issue any warning or make calls," said McPherson.

"We get plenty of calls about the flag condition reminders on your computers ... Weather Flight does not handle that," Daust said. "We send out the warnings for tornadoes, severe winds, severe hail, freezing precipitation, measurable snowfall and, of course, lightning and thunderstorms. If you're looking for more information regarding flag conditions, you can contact the 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight."

"The interaction between the pilots and me is what I like most about my job," said Daust. "Providing that one-on-one time to ensure the safety of the pilots and their crews gives me a big sense of self-fulfillment and pride."

The Weather Flight has a typical 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. work day, but this can change as quickly as lightning.

"If at any time we receive any severe criteria weather, we can transition to 24-hour support," Daust added. "Severe thunderstorms can mean 50 knot winds, large hail greater than one-half inch or tornadoes."

"JB Charleston's weather is so unpredictable," said Daust. "It's really humid and hot here, so anything can trigger a thunderstorm. There's so much energy around this place that it can turn severe at any moment."

Technical Training

All Air Force weather forecasters must complete the eight-month technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

But, unlike most jobs in the Air Force, assignments for new weather troops are handled a little differently than other careers.

"After graduation from technical school, weather troops are assigned to one of the eight major Air Force Weather 'hubs' to undergo intensive on-the-job training for a period of 15 to 24 months," said Daust. "These hubs are major regional weather forecasting stations."

The Air Force Weather hub bases are: Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Shaw AFB, S.C., Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., Scott AFB, Ill., Sembach Air Base, Germany and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

"It takes a lot of experience to deal with the weather," said Daust. "These hubs offer Airmen the way to learn so many different types of weather patterns. So, when you get to a weather flight, you have that depth of experience."

So, the next time you see or hear, "lightning within five," you'll know where the phrase comes from and how important it is for not only personnel, but also for JB Charleston's aircraft.