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Whether rain or shine, 19th OSS Weather Flight forecasts mission success

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Dark clouds hover over the 19th Airlift Wing Base Operations building as if signaling the imminent arrival of bad weather.

A storm system highlighted with bright green, red and yellow light up a radar monitor conveying an ominous message for the 19th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight.

Airmen work around the clock to collect and analyze the information as they piece together a picture of what’s to come.

Spring is tornado season and the weather flight Airmen are on the lookout for a potential threat.

Nearly six years ago, a twister ripped through Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Located in “tornado alley,” the base has a history of being impacted by severe weather conditions.

As meteorologists, Airmen monitor weather patterns 24/7 and alert aircrews and base populace of severe weather conditions imminent in the local area.

“We play a vital role in the mission,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ian Bergstrom, 19th OSS Weather Flight commander. “From pre-planning to execution, we brief aircrews on weather conditions and alert them if anything pops up during flight.” 

Just as the U.S. Navy uses radars and NASA uses satellites, the 19th OSS Weather Flight employs both systems to observe weather patterns hourly.

The team measures and monitors rainfall, cloud height, thunderstorms, temperatures, tornados, hail and much more to ensure the safety of the C-130 and its aircrew.

The data collected is then used to produce five to 3-day forecasts for the 19th Airlift Wing, 314th Airlift Wing and 189th Airlift Wing.

The forecasts are dispersed using the flight’s three main functions: staff services, mission services and airfield services.  

Staff services provides base leadership with timely and accurate weather projections. Mission services briefs aircrews on local weather patterns. Airfield services provides weather watches, warnings and advisories to the base populace.

All base resources are protected from severe weather events through the weather flights three services.

“Resource protection is our goal,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Cantu, 19th OSS Weather Flight technician. “Our resources are the base personnel, aircraft and property; that’s why we issue our weather warnings.”

Human input is the key element that sets the weather flight apart from ubiquitous weather applications. They maintain a 93 percent accuracy rating compared to an 84 percent rating by leading weather applications, according to the Consumer News and Business Channel.

“The models used to collect weather data aren’t always spot on,” Cantu explained. “Human input is key to identifying issues that the models don’t pick up — we update and analyze the data consistently for better accuracy.”

Little Rock AFB maintains a 24/7 mission readiness stance. As meteorologists, the 19th OSS Weather Flight provides trusted and accurate weather forecasts around the clock to support the global Combat Airlift mission on base.

A1C Jacob Phipps, 19th Operations Support Squadron Weather Apprentice, shares his thoughts while setting up a Tactical Meteorological Observing System. The equipment is a transportable system used in deployed locations to collect essential weather data for ground and flying operations. Video by SrA Jael Laborn.