Joint Base Charleston, S.C. —
The 437th Operations Support Squadron Weather Operations Flight faces unique challenges since they support land, air and sea operations at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
The base hosts multiple service components with varying missions and capabilities that require real-time weather information. These factors, combined with an annual hurricane season that has led to a base-wide evacuation the last three years, require the 437th OSS/WOF Airmen assigned here to maintain a versatile skill set.
“We do mission weather packages for all the local flights that tell pilots and aircrew what weather is expected in an air refueling track or at a certain flight level and if there's going to be any hazards,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Riley, NCO in charge of weather operations. “Then we create staff weather slides every day, we have a staff meeting for the 437th and the 315th [commanders and leadership], where weather and [other units] brief.”
Senior Airman Alexander Sinclair, a forecaster for the 437th OSS/WOF, added that the WOF also supports Army and Navy components at JB Charleston since there are no weather forecasters assigned to those units.
“We pretty much cover all three,” he said. “Whenever weather's occurring, we'll have to issue advisories or warnings for any type of weather phenomena like thunderstorms or advisory-level winds. We often get the Navy from the weapon station calling [and] asking if there's lightning within a certain distance. So we do have to monitor 5, 10, 30 miles around the Naval [Weapons] Station, as well as here and Short Stay.”
Riley said a weather flight member is part of the commander’s Crisis Action Team during any hurricane, snowstorm or other weather event.
“When the base commander stands up the CAT on base, we're one of the primary members,” he said. “If there's a hurricane, we have to usually have one ride out team member.”
Riley discussed his experience while riding out hurricanes.
“When sitting on a Crisis Action Team as a staff sergeant during the hurricane, you’re always by far the lowest ranking person,” He said. “There's maybe a major in the room, but everybody else is a group commander or a wing commander, so it's colonel or Navy captain, lieutenant colonel. It's stressful being a young staff sergeant sitting in a room with every leader on base and being the expert at something.”
The 437th WOF continues to support the mission, both during times of severe weather and when needed for normal day-to-day operations.