Storm Chasers of Africa

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Wisher
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Air Superiority is proven vital for success in Air Force operations, and the Airmen at the 776th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron provides accurate weather forecasts enabling aircraft to maintain air superiority.

As the subject matter experts on any current or incoming weather conditions, the weather flight is charged with tasks such as preflight briefings, and issuing weather advisories for Chabelley Air Base, Djibouti. 

“The mission really can't continue without the knowledge of what weather to expect during the takeoff and landing procedures,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sergio Porto-Duarte, 776th EABS weather forecaster. “We also will make Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, aware of any weather that may potentially damage assets so they could be protected.”

Given how weather can easily alter operations and even cause some to come to a complete stop, observation of weather patterns is imperative to maintain readiness.

With that in mind, many tools are used to track weather to keep mission operations going as smooth as possible.

“Besides satellite and radar, the weather flight utilizes online resources that provide models and overviews of the area,” said Airman 1st Class Marisa Paʻaʻāina, 776th EABS weather forecaster. “We also compare various model data coinciding with climatology data to recognize what type of weather patterns the area is regularly exposed to.”

Tracking a weather pattern can be a feat in itself. There were a few hurdles encountered which this three person team pushed through to overcome any obstacles in their way ensuring mission success.

“Due to very minimal real time data available, the models struggle frequently with forecasting how weather systems will move through the Horn of Africa, “ said Master Sgt. Melissa Thomas, 776th EABS weather flight chief. “We rely on our fundamental weather knowledge, experience, and also coordinate with other weather units in the area especially those who have been here on multiple deployments as they have seen the weather pattern and are a treasure trove of information.”

While completing their tasks of providing 24/7 resource protection for $836 million in assets, all base personnel, and aviation weather support for unmanned aerial vehicles; the weather flight all had nothing but positive remarks for the work they do.

”I enjoy producing a weather forecast and to see my forecast come to fruition as real time weather,” added Porto-Duarte. “I see firsthand how our forecasts and support affects everyone on CADJ and not just the pilots.”