Squadron turns weather into military ally

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Though the stifling desert heat in Iraq rarely gives way to pouring rain or heavy snowfall, unstable weather can often compromise a mission.

The 5th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron works hard to make sure that never happens.

The 5th EASOS, currently deployed from Fort Lewis to a forward operating base in Iraq, is composed of a battlefield weather team and a Joint Terminal Air Control Party. The team works with the Army's 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq to study how different weather affects different parts of their missions and the systems they use, said Staff Sgt. Greg Spiker, a member of the 5th EASOS.

Using four different tactical meteorological observing stations set up across the battlefield terrain, the unit collects weather data and formulates a tailored weather forecast for the Stryker Brigade.

"There are usually lots of data gaps so it takes a lot more forecasting than normal," Sergeant Spiker said.

High winds that stir up dust and lightening storms can wreak havoc on visual conditions for troops and helicopters, he said. It can also affect close air support for troops.

"The dust this season has been a factor," Sergeant Spiker said. "That crosses lots of different thresholds for different aircraft."

By forecasting conditions down to the hour or half hour, Sergeant Spiker said the Stryker Brigade can then plan its missions accordingly.

"It takes some confidence on our part, but we've built up a good trust with our Army counterparts," he said.

But not all of the team's work is done within the confines of the command center.

Sergeant Spiker said the team routinely goes out with the infantry units to do forward observing.

By observing the terrain directly, Sergeant Spiker said the team can better tailor its product to their needs.

It also gives the team a chance to see how certain Stryker equipment reacts to certain weather conditions.

"It gives us a good change of pace," Sergeant Spiker said.

The other facet of the squadron's mission is acting as an air liaison for direct air support for the Army, said Lt. Col. Tom Woods, 5th Air Support Operation Squadron commander.

Airmen who work with the Joint Terminal Air Control Party provide advice to each unit about air support and the appropriate application of air power, said Colonel Woods.

"It can be information about either a reconnaissance mission or an air strike," he said.
While certain squadrons in the Air Force are slowly being transitioned into serving alongside their Army counterparts, Colonel Woods said the 5th EASOS has been doing it for a long time.

"That is the biggest unknown about our mission throughout the Air Force -- we're physically out there with our Army units," he said.

While Colonel Woods admits the squadron has a lot of duties, he said they work hard to get the job done.
"We're proud of the great work they're doing over there," he said.