MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
The quick action of a weather flight can play a major factor in limiting the loss of life and damage to property. 1991, during the most severe storm season ever recorded in Kansas, the then 384th Operations Support Squadron weather flight showed extraordinary support and value when McConnell Air Force Base was directly struck by a tornado.
Today, the Airmen of the 22nd OSS weather flight, work 24/7 using sophisticated technologies to deliver timely forecasts that can affect the success of the mission.
“There’s so much more we can do in this career field than people think,” said Senior Master Sgt. Travis Rieken, 22nd OSS weather flight chief. “It goes beyond — ‘Can the pilot take off and land?’”
Weather forecasters are responsible for predicting weather patterns, generating forecasts and disseminating crucial information to base leadership and Airmen.
“Here on McConnell, we are the only source of weather information for the base,” said Rieken. “We as a team have to constantly be on the same page.”
The weight that comes with each forecast is much heavier than it would be for a civilian meteorologist.
“We’re sending people into the air,” said Rieken. “At the end of the day it can be life or death. If we miss something big, it could cost a life.”
Geographically, McConnell faces a high susceptibility to experiencing tornados and severe weather. Being able to accurately recognize and predict those threats early on is crucial.
“It is a huge amount of responsibility for a young Airman to be able to make that decision that could impact life, property and operation capabilities,” said Rieken. “They need to be able to back up their decision with confidence and the reasoning behind it.”
With weather having the ability to impact operations and mission readiness beyond our aircrews, Rieken hopes to see the weather flight foster interaction and integration with other shops on base.
“I want to make sure that everyone knows that if there is something that weather does to impact their operations, they should feel free to reach out to us and we can help gather to readings to support them one way or another,” said Rieken.
Forecasters have the skillset to identify factors such as wind speed, visibility, turbulence and more. If weather specifically has the ability to impede daily operations, it is important for supervisors and leaders to reach out and keep their Airmen safe.