18th OSS weather flight ensures mission, recreational safety
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Okinawa is known for its sub-tropical climate and postcard-worthy beaches, but those who live here are no strangers to heavy rain, rough surf and even the occasional typhoon.
In addition to its natural beauty, Okinawa serves an important role in the U.S. armed forces' operations in the Pacific and Asia. Kadena Air Base is known as the Keystone of the Pacific due to its strategic location in the center of the Pacific theater of operations.
Bridging the gap between Team Kadena's vital mission and Okinawa's sometimes erratic air and sea conditions, the 18th Operations Support Squadron's weather flight works 24/7 to minimize the weather's impact on Team Kadena's readiness.
"We provide the weather intelligence that enables the fighter platform here to safely defend Japanese and U.S. interests," said Tech. Sgt. Judd Porter, 18th OSS NCO in charge of airfield services.
The weather flight is responsible for issuing a weather forecast every eight hours, monitoring sea conditions and tropical cyclone conditions of readiness, as well as providing pre-mission weather briefings. These briefings inform pilots and other airborne personnel of the expected wind speeds, visibility, weather conditions and cloud level at the time and location at which they are expected to be flying.
While the weather flight plays a critical role in maintaining Kadena's readiness and ensuring the mission is completed as smoothly as possible, it also supports Airmen and their family members both here and back home by tracking, monitoring and releasing up-to-date information about potential typhoons and other weather hazards.
"We want to make sure we keep families and Status of Forces Agreement members updated on the dangers that typhoons present," said Staff Sgt. Hailey Thompson, 18th OSS weather technician. "We monitor potential typhoons in the Pacific theater not only to protect assets but people as well."
The weather flight also aims to protect people by monitoring the sea conditions around the island, ensuring everyone can safely enjoy themselves in and around the island's scenic waters.
Thompson said a leading cause of death on Okinawa is drowning, which she and her team hope to combat by providing up-to-date information on the island's sea conditions.
"We just want to make sure everyone is safe while participating in recreational activities in the water and on the beaches," Thompson said.
Okinawa can be viewed as a two-sided coin. It is the Keystone of the Pacific, a strategic forward power projection platform that would allow the U.S. and its allies to take swift action against any adversaries in the region. It is also a beautiful sub-tropical island with world-famous sea life and picturesque land and seascapes.
The 18th OSS weather flight works around the clock to ensure Kadena Airmen and their family members are able to safely operate on both sides of that coin, allowing them to transition seamlessly from work to play and back again.