By Senior Airman Monica Roybal, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 15, 2020
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Austin Medina, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge, uses a laser rangefinder at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 2, 2020. Airfield Weather Services members use rangefinders to measure distances for strategic weather sensor placement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Monica Roybal)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Marquise Meda, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron combat weather forecaster, briefs a unit at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 2, 2020. Staff Weather Officers are currently scattered throughout the camp’s tactical operation centers where they remain embedded in various Army units and are ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Monica Roybal)
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Austin Medina, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge, records laser rangefinder statistics at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 2, 2020. Staff Weather Officers are tasked with weather sensor placement, sensor maintenance and data retrieval throughout the theater. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Monica Roybal)
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Austin Medina, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge, observes the area at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 2, 2020. Staff Weather Officers have been assigned to units at the camp as the U.S. military executes troop retrograde from Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Monica Roybal)
An influx of U.S. Air Force Staff Weather Officers have been assigned to units at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, as the U.S. military executes troop retrograde from Iraq, which began in late June, 2020.
This new and unique circumstance could prove advantageous to U.S. Army aviation and ground units at the camp since SWO’s are typically embedded in U.S. Army mobile task forces that complete missions throughout the theater in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
“A dedicated Airfield Weather Services team is a great capability and this is the first time we’ve had this resource for Army Central Command,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shane Gillies, 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron commander. “This could all be temporary as the overall theater is changing, but, in the meantime, we are utilizing what impactful resources we have here now by assigning a SWO team to the Army headquarters elements here.”
According to Gillies, the AWS bring a new component to Buehring in that they are achieving the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s vision for team deployments. The AWS Airmen can use their stationary posture to provide consistent environmental intelligence that ensures safe aviation and ground operations at Camp Buehring rather than supporting a specific task force.
SWO’s are currently scattered throughout the camp’s Tactical Operation Centers where they remain embedded in various Army units and are ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice. The more integrated they become with the units, the more precise recommendations they can provide to help propel specific missions.
“The Army understands how important it is to have a SWO in their TOC’s because without a weather forecast a lot of things get shut down,” Gillies continued. “It comes down to trust. When you see your SWO every day and you know they speak Army terminology, it brings comfort that they understand the operation. They know artillery, they can handle themselves in a Humvee, they know movements on the ground and how weather impacts all of that.”
Part of claiming this specialized SWO duty title means the Airmen must train like Soldiers and are held to Army standards. SWO’s are tasked with fulfilling all the training requirements for the Army unit they are assigned to, which leads to some of these Airmen forecasters to be Army Airborne School, Air Assault School, Ranger School or Pathfinder School-qualified.
The inter-service training is an opportunity to cultivate a mutual respect where Airmen experience how Soldiers train for missions and Soldiers see Airmen accomplish the same training in order to provide an integral service to their unit.
“We are already engaged in the Army lifestyle by the time we arrive at our units,” said Senior Airman Marquise Meda, 22nd EWXS combat weather forecaster. “We’ve really built that brotherhood whether we’re working on our mission, hanging out after hours or (working out) in the early morning. I know they’re always looking out for me and I’m always looking out for them.”
The newly established Air Force and Army immersive weather forecasting environment at Buehring protects key logistical and command aspects in Kuwait, which allows forces to rapidly respond to matters throughout the theater.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Gillies said. “Ultimately, my vision is that we are the leading Army Weather Support Squadron given that we’re actively supporting day-to-day operations around the clock and learning how to support multi-domain operations as the Army starts to fuse (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) with targeting and reconnaissance on the ground.”