JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. --
Much to the surprise of most U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, there is a team of highly-trained weather Airmen assigned to the Fort Lewis side of the installation with a very unique mission. These warfighters don’t support C-17 Globemaster III operations like most Airmen would expect, but instead, support a wide range of U.S. Army activities on both the installation and across the entire U.S. Indo-Pacific Command theater. This team, the 1st Weather Squadron, provides a wide range of meteorological expertise to the United States Army’s I Corps.
It’s always interesting when you tell people that you are an Air Force weather squadron that is assigned to provide meteorological support to the U.S. Army and, in our case, America’s Corps. The Department of the Air Force and Department of the Army have a formal agreement in which Air Force Weather provides this valuable support to the Army. The 1st WS is habitually aligned to support the I Corps.
The 1st WS is the most geographically-dispersed squadron assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing. We have 89 squadron members located in six different U.S. Indo-Pacific Command locations: a headquarters in Washington, detachments and operating locations in Alaska and Hawaii, and an additional operating location in Japan. Our unique, Army-centric mission encompasses a 113 million square mile area of responsibility spanning nine time zones; the largest amongst all Army Weather Support squadrons.
The primary mission of our squadron’s personnel, otherwise known as Staff Weather Officers, is to train, integrate and provide environmental support to the I Corps and all subordinate units in both deployed and garrison locations. We generate and deliver decision-grade environmental data in support of 80,000 soldiers and $7 billion of Army assets. This is a responsibility that all of us take seriously.
To meet the robust readiness requirements necessary to support deployable Army units, a fully-trained SWO completes 240 hours of tactical training to include the 28-day Army Weather Support Course at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. This ensures our personnel are “combat mission ready,” a coveted status that indicates they are fully trained and postured to deploy at a moment’s notice. SWOs are expected to not only understand environmental conditions but also how the Army can exploit these conditions during schemes of maneuver and fires. All training is focused on fulfilling wartime functions while deployed with supported Army units.
My amazing team regularly trains and exercises alongside the Army so that they can deploy whenever called upon. They do this by maintaining their technical weather knowledge while also practicing key tactical training that allows them to deploy and operate side by side with their supported Army units. The Army wants SWOs with them and this is something that my team is incredibly proud of. Just like on the Army side, you build trust and camaraderie when you train together, deploy together and then come home together.
We are not only responsible to U.S. Army Pacific's wartime requirements, we also support humanitarian and disaster relief, wildfire suppression forecasts and medical evacuation route analysis. For example, personnel at Detachment 2, stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, prepared tailored data for decision makers directing evacuation efforts during and after the eruption of Mount Kilauea. Additionally, personnel at Detachment 3, stationed at Ladd Army Airfield, Alaska, provided key weather intelligence for decision makers fighting large, challenging wildfires.
The Mighty First Weather Squadron goes by the motto, "First Weather, None Better!" Our unit has a proud history and will continue to provide critical support to the Army long into the future. The ever-growing list of service- and major command-level awards, along with frequent recognition by I Corps leadership, is a testament to the superb efforts of the SWOs of the Mighty First.
When I come into the headquarters each day, or when I’m out seeing my Airmen around the theater, I always see an incredibly talented group of SWOs who give 100 percent of what they have, each and every day, to the mission they are tasked to support. As the weather never stops, my team has both an incredibly robust deployed and garrison mission. These warfighters understand the importance of what they bring to the fight and the constant stream of “kudos” they earn illustrates how important their jobs are to getting missions accomplished. I’m honored, and incredibly proud, to be the commander of these amazing Airmen.