Eyes on the sky: Fort Johnson’s weather wingmen stay alert
Published 1:09 pm Friday, September 15, 2023
By Porsha Auzenne | Special to the News Leader
FORT JOHNSON — The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson is known for being a great place to train. That training would be difficult to do, however, without the help of the Air Force’s Detachment 2, 18th Combat Weather Squadron.
They play a crucial part in supporting the Army’s mission and the Fort Johnson community. With Louisiana being in the middle of hurricane and severe weather season, the squadron stands ready in providing support to a wide range of missions and functions regarding this area.
The small team consisting of seven Air Force weather forecasters is responsible for providing current and future weather information used to safeguard the installation and its resources, training areas and personnel working and living at Fort Johnson. They protect and inform by producing weather forecasts, tailored mission weather products and briefings, historical weather assessments and severe weather alerts. Since weather is a significant factor to the success and safety of personnel at Fort Johnson, the detachment also works closely with aviation and medical evacuation teams to ensure they are aware of any inclement weather that may pose a danger.
Tech. Sgt. Austin Medina, Det. 2, 18th CWS aviation weather operations noncommissioned officer in charge, spoke more in depth on how his team works with the units of Fort Johnson and vice versa.
“Det. 2 works to apply weather data to aid in the success of a wide array of day-to-day events. We are typically the first in near daily command update briefings, which are a great way to quickly connect with leaders and representatives from various organizations from around Fort Johnson,” said Medina. “We also work more directly with other post organizations and routinely integrate our weather observing and forecasting capabilities into their various mission sets to maximize their successes or help them perform resource protection. This includes helping to plan installation activities, supporting the Maks Army Airfield flying missions and supporting 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division operations.
As the squadron’s primary focal point is forecasting and monitoring severe weather, the team takes multiple steps when a threat is approaching. Various tools and techniques are used to identify inclement weather three to four days prior to a potential event occurring. When the team sees any indicators of severe weather approaching, they use both automated and manual means to communicate with Fort Johnson’s Warrior Operations Center as well as participate in specialized briefs to give installation leadership the ability to make informed decisions in preparation for the event. In the hours leading up to a potential severe weather threat, the detachment issues watches, warnings and advisories to various organizations through automated systems. Conditions are further monitored using a current weather radar, near real-time satellite imagery, storm reporting and observations from surrounding sites in the area.
“These capabilities, along with collaboration amongst external agencies such as the National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center, help us keep the installation informed and safe,” Medina said.
When asked what the most important part of being in the combat weather squadron meant to him, Medina said working to ensure the Fort Johnson team, whether at home or deployed, is informed and able to make the best weather decisions when it comes to the installation’s safety. They do that by communicating the impacts that the outdoor elements will have on events and operations. “By being able to predict incoming weather events, we can help everyone better prepare for a wide array of conditions ranging from dangerous summertime heat, to hurricanes and severe thunderstorms, to even the occasional winter weather event.”