By Senior Airman Amanda Flower, DVIDS.
For Airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Operations Weather Squadron, Detachment 1, every mission is a no-fail mission, according to Maj. Katheryn Bryant, Detachment 1 commander. Located at Hurlburt Field, the 23rd SOWS is responsible for providing detailed weather tracking and forecasts.
Detachment 1 is a subordinate unit of the 23rd SOWS, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There, Airmen work directly with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, providing support for short-notice missions that often take place at night, with aircraft flying at high speeds and in low-level conditions.
“The pressure on your forecast to be right is a little bit higher here,” said Bryant. “If we’re wrong, it’s a big deal.”
Photo: Air Commandos with the 23rd Special Operations Weather Squadron, observe weather data at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 17, 2018. The 23rd SOWS provides timely, accurate and tailored weather analysis for planning and executing phases of deployed, exercising and garrisoned Special Operations Forces worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ronald Feliciano Rivera)
Typically, weather Airmen are responsible for forecasting flights that take place at 20,000 feet or above. Due to operational requirements, Airmen attached to Detachment 1 are responsible for forecasting at areas 2,000 feet and lower. The aircraft on Fort Campbell are primarily rotary-wing aircraft, aside from the MQ-1 Predator. Forecasting within lower levels requires more precision due to impacts from terrains and rapidly evolving microscale features.
Detachment 1 Airmen remain involved for the entirety of the flight to ensure aircrew are able to safely and efficiently complete their missions. Staff Sgt. Tyler Zeller, a Detachment 1 parachutist, noted that missing even the slightest detail could endanger the lives of the crews they work with.
“We are dedicated to being an asset as multi-capable Airmen,” Zeller said, adding that Airmen with Detachment 1 must be very deliberate and detail oriented when exploiting weather forecasts.
Zeller noted that the Airmen with Detachment 1 are held to a higher standard due to the sensitive nature of the missions the 160th SOAR conducts.
Photo: U.S. Air Force Airmen with 23rd Special Operations Weather Squadron, Detachment 1, prepare for a static line jump at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Sept. 22, 2022. By jumping with a Forward Arming and Refueling Point team Airmen with Detachment 1 are able to assist in refueling aircraft, establishing security and providing real time conditions and limited data forecasts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Amanda A. Flower)
Airmen attached to Detachment 1 are also airborne parachutists. By jumping with a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) team Airmen with Detachment 1 are able to assist in refueling aircraft, establishing security and providing real time conditions and limited data forecasts.
“In the plane, I close my eyes and try to visualize every sequence of events – from initial calls to getting to the follow-on objectives,” Zeller said. “With static line jumps, there is less time to deal with malfunctions due to low exit altitude.”
And while they face unique challenges when compared to weather Airmen across the Air Force, Detachment 1 Airmen would agree that it’s a rewarding job.
“We know that we are valued, and that goes a long way,” Bryant said. “They want a forecaster with them for everything, and it’s a good feeling that they value you that much.”
This article by Senior Airman Amanda Flower entitled “23rd SOWS Detachment 1: “Every mission is a no-fail mission” was originally published by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service on November 21, 2022. DVIDS provides content that is in the public domain.
Top photo: United States Army Institute of Heraldry, Public Domain, 2009
Videos: Watch a video about the 27 SOW Weather Forecasters at Cannon AFB and a SOCAF SOWT in Djibouti.