First official ARWO winging ceremony

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Christopher Carranza
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron held its first official winging ceremony for their newest aircrew qualified Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officers Dec. 6, 2020 at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

A winging ceremony is a tradition in the armed forces, where, after completing and passing all aviation requirements and training, aviators are awarded their wings.

The recipients who earned their wings are: Maj. Joyce Hirai, Maj. Sonia Walker, Capt. Melissa Templeton, Capt. Davis White, and 1st Lt. Jennie White.

“This is the first official ARWO winging ceremony and it is with distinct honor to formally recognize their achievement,” said Lt. Col. Dwayne Russell, 53rd WRS commander. “They fly the mission with us as aircrew so earning your wings is highly valued.”

The Hurricane Hunters ARWO, is the onboard meteorologist that ensures the data collected by the aircraft’s instruments, systems, and dropsondes are accurate prior to being sent to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The 53rd WRS is the only Department of Defense organization that flies weather reconnaissance and is home to the U.S. Air Force’s only ARWOs.

An ARWO must complete SERE school, initial altitude chamber course, and the weather officer course before entering flight training. Because of the specialized skillset of an ARWO, all flight training is completed in house, there is no formal training outside of the unit. The unit is authorized 21 ARWOs, 11 are Air Reserve Technicians and 10 are traditional reservists.

“The undergraduate ARWO ground and flight training is conducted 100% in the squadron’s Flight Training Unit.  Each candidate undergoes a minimum of 150 hours of instruction in the WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to become mission directors,” said Kaitlyn Woods, 53rd chief ARWO. This is in addition to balancing their family and civilian career, which is a way of life for Reserve Citizen Airmen.

“This ceremony is a small way to recognize every single challenge that all of you have accomplished up to this point,” said Russell to the recipients. “This is a step toward your next training of becoming (National Hurricane Operations Plan) storm qualified.”

NHOP focuses on the planning, execution, and use of aerial reconnaissance conducted by the 53rd WRS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center and addresses meteorological satellite, weather radar, ocean observing, and many other related topics.

“These newly certified Airmen are the next generation of ARWOs,” said Woods.