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Altus weather flight keep eyes on the sky

97 OSS weather flight

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Donald Chappotin, a weather technician assigned to the 97th Operations Support Squadron Weather Operations Flight, analyzes a 3D model of a thunderstorm, April 27, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. During the past month of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the weather operations flight continued pursuing their mission by ensuring constant safe flying conditions for pilots and aircrew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

97 OSS weather flight

The main entrance of the 97th Weather Operations Flight displays current weather maps, April 27, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. A usual work day for a weather forecast Airman can consist of many things depending on the severity of the weather. On most days, their job is to observe and forecast any significant weather developing around the base and in flying routes used by Altus aviators. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

97 OSS weather flight

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Amanda Ley, the 97th Weather Operations flight commander, analyzes a 3D model of a thunderstorm, April 27, 2020 at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Being located in southwest Oklahoma, the 97th Air Mobility Wing has the higher possibility of experiencing severe weather and pop-up storms that are not suitable for flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

97 OSS weather flight

The 97th Operations Support Squadron weather operations flight plaque is displayed outside the weather control room, April 27, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. In order to safely accomplish the 97th Air Mobility Wing’s mission of training exceptional mobility Airmen, weather forecast Airmen assigned to the flight must have constant eyes on the sky to provide mobility aircrew accurate, up-to-date information on possible weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Whether there are stormy skies or cloudless conditions, the 97th Operations Support Squadron weather operations flight at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., makes it their mission to provide mobility aircrew accurate and up-to-date information on possible weather conditions and hazards. 

A usual work day for a weather forecast Airman can consist of many things, depending on the severity of the weather. On most days, their job is to observe and forecast any significant weather developing around the base and in flying routes used by Altus aviators.

“The weather flight is here to provide accurate and relevant weather information in a timely manner,” said Tech. Sgt. James Hale, 97th OSS weather operations flight non-commissioned officer in charge. “Typically, we interpret a 5-day forecast data and tailor that information into several weather products for training missions, ground operations and planning.”

According to Senior Airman Julius Tolliver, a 97th OSS weather technician, the weather flight must also understand the different circumstances that personnel are able to work in under specific weather conditions.

“Whether the circumstances involve strong winds or hot temperatures, which is very common in this region, it is our job to forecast the best conditions to keep everyone aware of what is expected to occur,” said Tolliver. “If any changes occur in the forecast we communicate the changes with the necessary units, where they will work accordingly and (make) necessary adjustments in order to further the mission.”

Being located in southwest Oklahoma, the 97th AMW has a higher possibility of experiencing severe weather and ‘pop-up’ storms that are  not suitable for flying:notifying the base populus during these storms is one of the weather flight’s responsibilities. Some of the most common types of severe weather experienced here include: thunderstorms, lightning, microbursts and damaging winds, hail, flooding and tornados. 

During the recent months of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the 97th Weather Operations Flight continued pursuing their mission by ensuring constant safe flying conditions for pilots and aircrew.

“Our team has continued to support the mission while also working severe standby operations on the weekend,” said Master Sgt. Deerick Gray, the 97th OSS Weather Operations flight chief. “We created a new duty schedule that reduced the amount of personnel interaction by 50% without any mission degradation or reduction to our office hours. This schedule allowed for one person to work on shift anytime the airfield was open, and a severe weather lead to be available 24/7.”

Despite precautionary procedures implemented throughout workspaces due to COVID-19, the weather flight manages to execute their mission while keeping Airmen safe and mission ready.

“Weather conditions can become unexpectedly dangerous at a moment’s notice,” said Hale. “Because of the rapid nature that weather conditions can change, we must provide base leaders and Airmen with the most accurate weather information to protect life, mitigate damage to resources and safely execute the mission at Altus AFB.”

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