KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The 5th and 12th Operational Weather Flights of the 403rd Wing are geographically separated units located at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, respectively. They train and maintain readiness to provide weather forecasting support for their roles locally, nationally and abroad.
“As a forecaster and observer we monitor atmospheric and environmental conditions that may impact flight or surface movements of our customers,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hjemvick, 5th OWF forecaster. “With the information we collect and weather patterns we observe, we inform decision makers such as commanders and pilots so they can decide how to proceed with missions. The overall goal is to spot hazards to protect lives and resources.”
The 5th’s mission is to provide the world's most disciplined, trained, and effective Reserve weather force in support of U.S. Central, European, Africa, and Strategic Air Commands - anytime, anywhere.
“We’re a team of highly experienced weather forecasters with diverse backgrounds in many different civilian careers that work exceptionally well together for the mission and for each other,” said Master Sgt. Jessica Mobley, 5th OWF operations element chief. “We’re continuously training to build our skill sets to support not only one customer, but support multiple customers in multiples domains. Everyone shows up to (Unit Training Assemblies) ready to train and become better forecasters.”
There are approximately 25 total Reserve Citizen Airmen in the ‘Fighting Fifth’ and are currently led by Capt. Grant Talkington, 5th OWF director of operations. They provide support to the 28th Operational Weather Squadron, various base weather squadrons and flights, combined air operations centers overseas, and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, aka Hurricane Hunters, when they forward deploy.
“We support missions worldwide using our weather skills to primarily support Air Force and Army aviation units, while providing resource protection for (Department of Defense) assets, operations support, bringing multiple skillsets to support base and air operations centers,” said Hjemvick. “We do a lot and we work rigorously to expand our capabilities to be of greater service to the broader Air Force.”
As the 5th OWF covers their area of responsibility the 12th OWF handles its own AOR covering U.S. Pacific, Northern, Southern and Transportation Commands.
In the Midwest, the 12th’s mission is to provide timely, accurate, and relevant environmental characterizations in support of total force operations, conduct training to develop, and build technically proficient Airmen capable of executing weather operations.
“We’re ready to step out the door at a moment’s notice,” said Master Sgt. Toni Pierce, 12th OWF superintendent. “We have approximately 20 Airmen in our flight and we’re always training and keeping up-to-date with our readiness to either backfill active duty Airmen in operational weather squadrons or deploying overseas to support air operations centers.”
Historically, the 12th OWF directly supported the 15th Operational Weather Squadron, but has shifted to supporting base weather stations and deployment-centric roles. The unit is capable of providing surge support and backfills any active duty weather squadron or flight, which is approximately 320 different total force units across 153 DOD installations. They are led by their commander, Maj. Kimberly Spusta.
“One of the unique opportunities in our career field is speaking with pilots often because weather has a direct impact on their mission in addition with commanders who are the ultimate decision makers for missions,” said Pierce. “Everyone wants to know what the weather is going to be, so being able to provide that kind of information in an accurate and timely manner leads to mission success.”
The Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 5th and 12th OWFs all share the same sentiments of being tight-knit and answering the call of duty.
“For me personally, our team is very much a family because I work with many amazing individuals and the work we do is fulfilling,” said Hjemvick. “My biggest pride in the unit has been our evolution to support different mission sets. We have a bunch of good folks that are willing and able to support where needed.”