SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- As one of the eight directorates in the 618th Air Operations Center, the Global Weather Operations Directorate at Scott helps enable the Air Operations Center to plan, task, execute and assess global air mobility operations, provide tailored weather information to help shape mission plans, mitigate unfavorable weather conditions and provide the best opportunity for mission success.
“Our weather plans division provides long-range outlooks using climatology and weather models that highlight both potential trouble spots in areas we will be operating and the good weather windows,” said Master Sgt. Kevin Vandersys, 618th AOC weather operations manager. “Our weather operations division takes over when missions move from the planning to execution phase by building comprehensive weather packages for each mission that includes take-off and departure weather conditions and flight hazards in transit.”
The 618th AOC XOW has approximately 40 personnel that are dedicated to making this mission a success.
“Our primary tool for accomplishing this mission is the Global Decision Support System, which is the command and control software we use to process missions,” said 1st Lt. Cory Sherwood, 618th AOC weather forecaster. “Regular weather squadrons produce the actual forecasts. Our unit compiles the information in various ways to produce a concise product for the customer.”
For example, the 15th Operational Weather Squadron produces weather forecasts for the northeastern United States. The 618th XOW is an exploitation unit with the responsibility of taking forecasts from an OWS or other agency, and tailoring them to a specific mission based on mission set, airfield and aircraft-specific weather limits.
“We work in tandem with the [operational weather squadron] and cannot do our job without them,” said Vandersys. "Weather is one of the primary limiting factors in mission success and we aim to minimize weather effects, while maximizing mission success.”
Having to monitor weather conditions around the globe, scouring satellite images, weather observations and forecasts from military, civilian, and foreign sources to maintain situational awareness on weather events around the world, it is common that several significant weather events can be occurring simultaneously.
“A hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, a volcano spewing ash in the Pacific Ocean, and a major dust storm in Southeast Asia can occur at the same time affecting our mission,” said Vandersys. “This is in addition to every day events like fog, thunderstorms, and turbulence which can wreak havoc on scheduled operations.
“XOW overcomes these challenges by staying ahead of the threat, being proactive, and attempting to mitigate the mission-limiting weather before it becomes an emergency.”
Sherwood said the best part of his mission is seeing the direct impact the briefings have on major real world events.
“Whether dropping supplies in the Middle East, or fighting Ebola in Africa, it is very easy to see how our work impacts events around the world,” Sherwood said.