KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Protecting military assets is important to all jobs in the Air Force, and one career field takes it a step further in trying to predict the future.
While not always 100 percent accurate, the 8th Operations Support Squadron weather team is able to forecast different weather conditions in advance, which is critical for the flying operations here. The close relationship U.S. weather Airmen maintain with their Republic of Korea Air Force counterparts is key to getting jets off the ground.
“Air Force weather covers everything from the mud to the sun,” said Master Sgt. Patrick King, 8th OSS mission weather operations flight chief. “In the weather career field, forecasters track everything from normal everyday weather that affects the base and personnel to solar events that can affect satellite communications.”
One main focus of the weather office is to ensure that pilots know what to expect from takeoff to landing.
“Before each crew steps to their planes, our forecasters must provide a brief that highlights impacts currently occurring that could affect the flight, as well as conditions en route and on target,” said King. “The air crews are able to take this data and tailor their missions to reduce the level of risk should they decide to fly through weather. This can be either delaying their mission, adjusting their altitudes, or changing their air space.”
Since pilots are expected to be able to respond to threat at any time and weather can change at any time, the 10-person shop runs all day, every day.
“The list of potential environmental factors that could negatively impact the health and well-being of individuals as well as factors that could create potentially destructive and costly losses to assets is extensive,” said Tech. Sgt. David Murphy, 8th OSS mission weather operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “The weather station has to be vigilant 24/7 in providing this information to minimize these losses.”
Although continuously running operations can be exhausting, the 8th OSS weather isn’t alone on long shifts; Airmen complete their work with the help of 38th Fighter Group Republic of Korea Air Force counterparts at the weather station.
“Naturally there is a language barrier, but everyone really does a good job in overcoming it,” said Murphy. “A few of our ROKAF counterparts are fairly fluent in English so it helps the communication process along.”
Both the U.S. and Korean Airmen bring their own unique advantages to protect the base and its assets.
“Our ROKAF partners get the benefit of being able to see the real-time surface weather observation data that we pull from the airfield 24/7,” said Murphy. “We get the benefit of the years of experience and knowledge that ROKAF has about this geographical location of the world. Together we benefit from the collaborative efforts to come up with more precise weather forecasts to keep our missions going.”
To ensure pilots can take off and to warn the base of any hazardous storm systems, both the U.S. and Korean weather Airmen are always there completing the mission.