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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | March 26, 2015

Telling the future with 100% accuracy

By Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant 11th Wing Public Affairs

You can plan a picnic with other's forecasts, but you can't do flight operations, according to Capt. Kurtis Schubeck, 89th Operational Support Squadron/Operational Weather Squadron flight commander.

Flight operations are hardly a picnic, but the 89 OSS/OSW ensured mission readiness by correctly forecasting eight-out-of-eight winter weather systems that came through the National Capital Region.

"We couldn't have done it without the crew that we have," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Prato, 89 OSS/OSW weather flight chief. "Everybody clicks. It's like a family."

The small weather flight, of approximately 12 Airmen, is a close-net group of weather enthusiasts.

"A lot of them come in early and stay late," said Tech. Sgt. Alfred Brooks, 89 OSS/OSW airfield services NCO In-Charge.  "There are times were I've received phone calls from people here when they are off saying, 'Hey, the winds are such and such down in Alexandria right now' or 'this is what's happening in La Plata.' It's something that everybody here enjoys and they enjoy it to a level where it's not work anymore."

These weather forecasters, in turn, were rewarded with a visit by Col. Brad Hoagland, 11th Wing commander, and each received a coin for their forecasting excellence.

"We had several weather systems come through, some of which produced freezing rain and snow, and we were able to forecast an accurate beginning, ending and accumulation totals," Brooks said.

With accuracy, the 89th weather family plays a vital role in the base's overall mission by briefing 89 OSS and 11 WG leadership.

"There are two weather briefs given, one to the 89th and one to the 11th Wing, and with that information, closures, delays and decisions to stay open are made," Schubeck said.

"If something happens and we get hail or freezing rain that can ruin anything on that airfield, we have to be ready," Prato said. "We have to take everything seriously on a micro scale."

Using technology, they read detailed micro scales of weather patterns and changes happening in the surrounding areas to give base leadership detailed information down to the minute. While other weather services use models that generalize what a weather system might do over the course of a day.

"One hundred years ago, we would probably be burnt at the stake because they would have been like, 'How are you able to tell the future?' but now it's expected of us," Schubeck said. "We have to be a lot more precise than any model, website or groundhog is."

Clear, concise and consistent forecasting is their mantra.

"It's not common for a weather flight to go eight-for-eight in correct weather forecasts," Brooks said. "We did a lot of training before the season started with hands on scenarios, so when the winter season started, we felt prepared."

With expertise they told the future and their newest forecast is in.

"We're going to be even better next year," Schubeck said.