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Ready to go at 50 below
Don Gossel, 354th Operations Support Squadron lead meteorologist, compares lower and upper model data of weather patterns Feb. 6, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Iceman weather team, consisting of 10 active duty personnel and one civilian, supports the base by updating base agencies with critical weather knowledge, to include snow, freezing precipitation, thunderstorms, hail and wind speeds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson)
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Ready to Go at 50 Below

Posted 2/15/2013   Updated 2/15/2013 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Elias Zani
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/15/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, grab your smartphone and check the weather. How cold is it at Eielson today?

The weather is something taken for granted due to the ease of checking the forecast at any time. It often has the appearance of something automated, but this is not the case. At Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, the weather flight sets the frame of reference for how the rest of the base is able to function.

When the weather flight is mentioned, the initial thought is about their impact on flight, said Senior Airman Phillip Mathews, 354th Operations Support Squadron weather technician.

The mission at Eielson includes not only the local area, but supporting the entire Pacific region as well as supporting the rest of the Air Force and Allied airpower through training at Red Flag. The weather flight makes it possible to know when and how to prepare to carry out the mission at Eielson.

"I think that one of the things people don't realize is how much the weather impacts everything else on base," Mathews explained. "We provide continuous situational awareness so that the commanders have a good idea on how to best protect the resources and personnel."

The purpose of the weather flight is to support the base with critical weather knowledge. Personnel stay hard at work to provide accurate, up-to-date coverage of Eielson. They get the information out to the appropriate agencies, allowing those shops to plan accordingly.

"With the weather being so extreme here, there is often a lot of risk involved that wouldn't normally be present at an average Air Force base," said Captain Kyle Fitch, 354th OSS weather flight commander.

The Iceman Team is no stranger to the challenges of Alaska and knows the cold weather can be inconsistent, sometimes fluctuating 40 degrees in a day or two.

"Weather forecasting is an ongoing, multifaceted process," said Fitch

Despite the focus on the cold winters, Mathews said the weather flight maintains its mission in the summer months as well.

"In the summer, being unaware of expected thunderstorm severity, especially regarding potential hail and wind damage, can have equally devastating impacts," said Mathews. "We really do recognize the impact that our forecasts have on the success of the mission."

"Sometimes we are wrong, but most of the time we have a pretty good handle on what to expect," said Mathews.

Mathews said the weather flight recognizes a quote from Sun Tzu as written in The Art of War that says, "Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will then be total."

Through their year-round weather predictions, the weather flight works to ensure that the 354TH Fighter Wing is prepared for events like Red Flag, which focus on improving the combat readiness of US and international forces.

Even from behind the scenes, the weather flight brings invaluable information to the base that helps it function and know when to be "Ready to go at 50 below!"

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