Weather warriors support Allied Strike 2011

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Davis
  • 86 AW Public Affairs
As Tactical Air Control personnel from the U.S. and NATO countries gather to train at Allied Strike 2011, an annual Close Air Support exercise, many other career fields are providing support behind the scenes and also participating in the training.

Twenty-four personnel from the 7th Weather Squadron, based at seven Army installations across Germany and Italy, have come here to support the exercise in many areas. They are forecasting weather in the Tactical Operations Center, acting as range safety officers, and providing logistical support on the training lanes.

"Last year we sent only seven people," said Capt. James Hughes, 7th Weather Squadron chief of education and training. "This year, we have one-third of the squadron here to provide the best support that we can in several different areas other than strictly weather operations."

As EUCOM's and AFRICOM's only battlefield weather squadron supporting land component operations, the 7th Weather Squadron is well-suited for the job due to the specialized training they receive. It sets them apart from traditional Air Force-support weather units, and their battlefield weather proficiency is evidenced by their recent standardization and evaluation program inspections, where they have garnered the highest scores in USAFE.

"We are attached to US Army Europe units around Germany, and one is attached to US Army Africa in Italy," Captain Hughes said."So, because of that, we have to have different arming qualifications and combat skills. We are specifically organized, trained, and equipped to support the Army with battlefield weather capabilities and be the eyes forward for joint and coalition operations."

That training never stops. Even during what little down time there is during the first week of Allied Strike, the Weather Squadron personnel meet to train on tactics, techniques and procedures they will need to know when they deploy. They also train on how to operate specialized tactical weather equipment used extensively downrange. Having enlisted Airmen and officers from the squadron headquarters and six geographically separated units allows them to share experiences and learn from one other.

Though the primary goal for attending Allied Strike 2011 is to support the exercise and prepare themselves for future deployments, the weather personnel here are finding the experience valuable in other ways.

"This is my first time at Allied Strike," said weather forecaster Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Roberts. "The people in our squadron are spread out all over Germany and Italy, so we don't get to see each other very often. Here, we get to train, but also network and build camaraderie with each other."

At the completion of Allied Strike, the 7th Weather Squadron personnel can return to their units with the satisfaction of having supported the U.S and 14 other NATO countries in Europe's premier Close Air Support exercise. They will also leave with more confidence in their readiness to deploy and integrate into the Army units they are attached to.

"I've learned some new things and I've received a lot of refresher training to prepare me for my upcoming deployment," said Sergeant Roberts. "This exercise has been very worthwhile."