Using science to stay ahead of weather

Countless factors can contribute to the outcome of the mission at Beale Air Force Base, including something seemingly simple as the weather.

In order to keep the mission going, weather-flight Airmen assigned to the 9th Operational Support Squadron propel the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s operations through discipline and attention to detail of the skies.

“Our main purpose is to provide weather support for the pilots and the base populous,” said Senior Airman Andrew Goudge, 9th OSS weather forecaster. “We monitor conditions of the entirety of the base, including its airspace. We make sure to put out advisories for base resources so we maintain protection of our assets.”

An imperative part of Goudge’s job is to forecast weather accurately.

“With our job, we have stakes that are higher compared to the meteorologist someone sees on TV,” Goudge said. “As Air Force weather forecasters, we need to be confident with our calculations because we are essentially responsible for the pilot’s life and they put their trust in us to do our best to take care of them.”

One of the tools used to make their forecasts is the Air Force Weather Web Service, which is a program that allows them to get meteorological data from anywhere in the world. Also, to ensure their predictions are correct, they use sensors on the airfield and coordinate with airfield management and air traffic control to gather real-time weather.

Another responsibility of the weather unit is to relay this information to U-2 Dragon Lady/T-38 Talon pilots before and during any local training flights.

“The briefer cell is the outreach we provide for the pilots,” Goudge said. “We communicate with them directly about factors that might come up in their flying routes. We make sure they have everything they need to complete their mission and have a safe flight.”

The weather unit doesn’t only play a part in local airborne operations; certain members work closely with the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron and deliver weather support for the RQ-4 Global Hawk missions around the globe.

“Due to the RQ-4 being an unmanned aircraft, we work diligently with the pilots to be their eyes for navigating the sky,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Snyder, 9th OSS weather forecaster. “We are constantly keeping an eye out for turbulence, thunderstorms and freezing temperatures, which could affect not only the function of the aircraft, but also the intelligence to help troops down range.”

By providing weather support to the 9th RW aircraft, the unit plays a significant role in Beale AFB’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission by keeping pilots up to speed with the latest weather information in installation’s neck of the woods and worldwide.

Senior Airman Andrew Goudge, 9th Operational Support Squadron weather forecaster, looks at meteorological data at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 15, 2020. Weather-flight Airmen boost the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s mission through detecting, recording and transmitting space environmental observations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Valentina Viglianco)

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