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Weather clears skies for bomber pilots

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Mellissa Capestro uses a distance-measuring tool to check visibility at a forward-deployed location.  She is a weather forecaster with the 457th Air Expeditionary Group.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Mellissa Capestro uses a distance-measuring tool to check visibility at a forward-deployed location. She is a weather forecaster with the 457th Air Expeditionary Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Mellissa Capestro checks cloud height and barometric pressure at a forward-deployed location.  She is a weather forecaster with the 457th Air Expeditionary Group.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Mellissa Capestro checks cloud height and barometric pressure at a forward-deployed location. She is a weather forecaster with the 457th Air Expeditionary Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Staff Sgt. Mike Wimmer reads a visibility chart at a forward-deployed location.  Wimmer is weather forecaster assigned to the 457th Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Fisher)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Staff Sgt. Mike Wimmer reads a visibility chart at a forward-deployed location. Wimmer is weather forecaster assigned to the 457th Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Fisher)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- While accurate bombs, jet-propelled missiles and well-trained crews mean the difference in a war, none of it gets off the ground without good weather.

As aircrews and others at a forward-deployed location will tell you, weather is paramount for the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom. No one knows that better than Staff. Sgt. Mike Wimmer, mission execution forecaster for the 457th Air Expeditionary Group and its compliment of B-52 Stratofortress bombers.

"(Weather forecasting is) paramount here," said Wimmer. "It is critical whether a mission goes or doesn't go."

At the base weather support center, staffed with one meteorologist and four forecasters, Wimmer provides weather updates to air traffic control, the combined information center and transient aircraft. That way, no matter if an aircraft is coming or going, the aircrews are aware of the current weather conditions.

Each day, Wimmer gets updated on current weather conditions and the forecast for the next six hours to five days. After that, he begins his daily research. He looks at satellite photography so he can see any developing weather patterns and gets more information from the forecasters in Germany, the hub of European weather forecasting.

During his shift, he is responsible for issuing local weather observations. Every 15 minutes, Wimmer or another forecaster walks outside and checks visibility, noting any weather changes.

Then he inputs his observations along with data on wind speed and direction, temperature and barometric pressure into a database. Once complete, anyone in the world can read and use the information.

Weather information is not just for aircrews, it is available for all base agencies, Wimmer said. From turbulence to thunderstorms, the military weather grid affects all operations in the war against Iraq.

Because of that, Wimmer said he gets a lot of job satisfaction from what he does.

"I do love my job. It has been nothing but a fun ride for the last 12 years," said Wimmer. "When the pilots come in and say 'thank you, your weather was on target,' (that) is what I like to hear. Three months of a contingency operations makes up for five years of practice.

"I believe that after a firefighter, I have the best job in the Air Force" he said with a big smile.

Senior Airman Mellissa Capestro is another forecaster with the flight. She said she understands how her forecasts could affect the outcome of a mission. A self-confessed science nut and weather buff, Capestro said she enjoys being close to the mission.

"You feel included," she said. "It gives me a great sense of pride."

It is not just the job that keeps Wimmer excited. Each day he said he sees his work help coalition aircraft lift off.

"Being next to the runway when the first (B-52s) took off and knowing our weather shop made an impact on their ability to conduct a mission is a huge highlight," said Wimmer. "It's rewarding seeing all your hard work and practice pay off watching that Buff take off ... knowing something good will come out of it."