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Weathering a storm: 188th weather forecasters provide essential support to RPA mission

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Burgos, weather forecast apprentice, explains the effects of Tropical Depression Bill June 18, 2015, during a presentation provided at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Ark. Weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cody Martin/Released)

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Burgos, weather forecast apprentice, explains the effects of Tropical Depression Bill June 18, 2015, during a presentation provided at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Ark. Weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cody Martin/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Williams, weather forecaster, uses the Kestrel 4500NV pocket weather tracker at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Ark., to measure wind, temperature, dew point and other atmospheric elements of Tropical Storm Bill June 6, 2015. Weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cody Martin/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Williams, weather forecaster, uses the Kestrel 4500NV pocket weather tracker at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Ark., to measure wind, temperature, dew point and other atmospheric elements of Tropical Storm Bill June 6, 2015. Weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cody Martin/Released)

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Burgos, weather forecast apprentice, analyzes satellite and radar data June 6, 2015 during the approach of Tropical Depression Bill at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Ark. Weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cody Martin/Released)

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Burgos, weather forecast apprentice, analyzes satellite and radar data June 6, 2015 during the approach of Tropical Depression Bill at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Ark. Weather forecasters analyze weather conditions, prepare forecasts, issue weather warnings and brief weather information to pilots. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cody Martin/Released)

EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, FORT SMITH, Ark. - -- Pilots in the Air National Guard must be aware of a number of different factors when they fly; however, one of the biggest variables to consider is the weather. To combat the unpredictable, the ANG has weather forecasters to keep pilots informed of conditions in real time helping to play a vital role in ensuring flight plans are as safe as possible. As part of the mission conversion here, weather forecasters are preparing to switch gears for a new type of pilot and plane, the MQ-9 Reaper.

Weather specialists in the ANG are responsible for predicting weather patterns and preparing forecasts to brief pilots and commanders on weather conditions, which can often make the difference between performing a mission or standing down.

Before the conversion to an RPA, targeting and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, 188th Wing weather forecasters predicted weather patterns for A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthog" pilots.

"The good thing with the RPA is you get live feed," said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Williams, weather forecast specialist. "You can use that to your advantage and see storms rolling in or see what level the clouds are at and adjust your forecast for that."

A unique advantage that the RPA provides is with its live feed. The live feed can be viewed on multiple monitors during flight, providing a distinct accessibility. Pilots of the A-10 can contact forecasters via radio, but it does not provide the efficiency of live feed that can be analyzed during an RPA pilot's flight.

"One of the advantages [sensors] provide is that it gives us more eyes in the sky," said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Burgos, weather forecast apprentice.

Weather specialists have to be cautious of the affect weather can have on RPAs.

"Satellite may be one of our only tools overseas, but it's an amazing tool to have," Williams expressed. "You can see what's going on in the atmosphere through all of our satellites which helps exponentially when it comes to mission planning and sharing information."

Face-to-face communication is a huge advantage to the ISR field that the 188th Wing will be providing, and weather specialists will benefit just as much from this opportunity. Members of the 188th ISR Group will be housed in one building to enhance efficiency and accelerate the speed of information to the RPA pilots.
Weather forecasters at the 188th get the unique chance to obtain information on the weather the pilot is flying in and either walk over or speak through the radio to get that critical information to them.

"It is a lot easier to get pilots information because everybody knows that weather changes rapidly in any location, here or overseas," Williams stated. "If you have a pilot who's flying a mission thousands of miles away and you can walk over or get on your radio and talk to the pilot about what you just saw, it is a huge benefit and can save assets."

The mission of weather specialists within the 188th and the Air National Guard is essential to pilots and their aircraft in completing key mission objectives. Their success shows that the ANG is an inseparable part of the total force and a proven choice for the warfight.