True team effort behind weather squadron's success
by Ryan Hansen
Air Force Weather Agency Public Affairs
9/14/2009 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- Today's Airmen are becoming increasingly familiar with words like "joint" and "total force" regardless of where they are assigned or deployed.
As the U.S. Central Command's and International Security Assistance Force's designated Joint Meteorology and Oceanographic Forecast Unit, that's certainly true for the members of the 28th Operational Weather Squadron here. They are a joint and total force team.
Active-duty Airmen, Air Force Reserve Command members and Sailors from the Navy provide weather information to all branches of the U.S. military and coalition partners deployed downrange into CENTCOM's area of responsibility.
"We have a joint coalition operational mission here for today's fight and our manning is a reflection of that," said Lt. Col. Frederick Williams, the 28th OWS commander. "Everyone here is a vital part of this team and they all make valuable contributions."
One of those key contributors to the overall success of the 28th OWS mission is the 5th Operational Weather Flight, a reserve associate Unit assigned to the squadron. This group of 21 reservists has had 12 of its members serving on full-time active duty orders supporting the squadron since 2004.
"Due to the high-ops tempo, we recruited many mission-ready reservists who wanted to be on extended orders," said Lt. Col. Chuck Buckler, the 5th OWF commander. "Our forecasters were selected for their skill-level expertise and contributed rapidly to the warfighter with quick position skill-level qualification."
The members of the 5th OWF serve in different roles throughout the squadron. On a daily basis they work alongside active-duty Airmen producing regional forecasts for Afghanistan and Iraq, serve as joint forecasters and provide a shift brief as the lead meteorologist.
"I've served in almost every position on the floor," said Tech. Sgt. Casey Grim, a reservist with the 5th OWF. "But it doesn't matter if we're a member of the Reserve, active duty or from the Navy, we're all here to support the warfighter."
"What we get from the Reserve fleet are some highly capable people with war experience," Colonel Williams said. "They can step right in and be proficient with very little training. They are fully integrated, capable and confident both in leadership and technical ability."
The flight's dedication to the warfighter has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, the 5th OWF was named the 2008 Air Force Reserve weather flight of the year.
"We are a true success story in Reserve and active duty cohesiveness," Colonel Buckler said. "One would not be able to know who is a reservist and who is the active-duty person and that is how it is supposed to be."
Another important part of the 28th OWS team are the forecasters from the Navy. The Sailors integrated into the squadron almost two years ago and typically serve in one of the four joint operational area forecaster positions to maximize their maritime forecasting knowledge.
"This has been a great experience and I'm proud to be serving the warfighter," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jorge Castillo, an aerographer's mate second class from Naval Station Norfolk, Va. "When I go back to Norfolk and tell them of my experiences, I will tell them to take the opportunity to come here if it's available to them because it's great to work with other services."
While Airmen out of technical school typically start their careers as forecasters, Sailors generally start out as observers. This background is just one of the unique aspects Navy members bring with them to the 28th OWS.
"Observing is invaluable experience," Sergeant Grim said. "When you can see it happen, hour by hour, minute by minute and you see it with your own eyes, it really sticks with you. So it's great that the Navy folks have that background and can bring that perspective to us."
"Having the Navy here is really good for both of us," Colonel Williams said. "For the Navy, they get a tremendous amount of experience forecasting operationally significant products, and it brings credibility to our unit to have other services here."
"The bottom line is we all understand weather and we should be working together to put out the best products we can for the warfighter," Petty Officer Castillo said.
Beyond the on-the-job advantages of having an experienced Navy forecaster on the team, the members of the 28th OWS have learned other things from the Sailors as well.
"From the professional military side, it's a great opportunity for our Airmen to have the Navy here," said Senior Master Sergeant James Slisik, the 28th OWS superintendent. "Together we've held professional development seminars and they really bring a different perspective on the traditions of our sister services."
"It's a good experience for our junior enlisted folks from a customs and courtesies perspective," Sergeant Grim added. "Things as simple as addressing someone from another branch of service, it's different in the Air Force than some of the other branches."
As the U.S. military continues to intertwine itself through assignments, deployments and joint taskings, organizational structures like the 28th OWS's could become the norm and not the exception in the future.
"This squadron is integrated with the (Combined Air and Space Operations Center), the Army units on the ground and really the whole coalition with our JOAF," Colonel Williams said. "Our approach here builds talent for everyone involved and both the reserve and the Navy get more exposure to the joint fight."
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