U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez

Typhoon Forecasters

by Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Rivalry remains a healthy cornerstone of the U.S. armed forces, but when push comes to shove, Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Sailors put differences aside to unlock their potential. Such is the case during natural disasters, where joint weather teams band together, ensuring the safety of those in range of cataclysmic disasters.

Typhoons are inevitable on the island of Okinawa, but for every storm on the horizon, there’s a team ready and qualified to safeguard U.S. assets and personnel.

Enter the Joint Weather Okinawa team (JWO).

“We work tirelessly together to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel on Okinawa when a typhoon may impact the island,” said Capt. Richelle Greer, weather flight commander from the 18th Operations Support Squadron. “On a normal day, these weather flights have their own missions to support and they don’t include being the island’s weather channel.”

The JWO leave the weather forecasting to the Armed Forces Network (AFN) and local public affairs shops (PA). The 18th OSS Kadena Weather Flight instead provides mission execution forecasts to all flying squadrons assigned to the 18th Wing. The 353rd Special Operations Group Weather Flight provides specialized weather support to the Air Force special operations forces on Okinawa. Navy Oceanography and Anti-Submarine Warfare Detachment Kadena provides oceanography and subsurface forecasts to Navy P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon aircraft on Kadena, and the III Marine Expeditionary Force Weather provides support to all amphibious operations across the island.

As storms approach, priorities shift from safeguarding military personnel and assets to also protecting military families. When these units combine their expertise, it elevates the accuracy and detail, and accelerates timelines necessary to delivering life-saving data.

According to Capt. George Mills, senior weather officer from the III MEF weather, five days before a typhoon may hit the island, meteorologists from JWO study the storm’s movement and development by observing everything from tropical disturbances over the Pacific Ocean, to the typhoon’s strength as it hits the island.

The team then advises and informs military leaders, AFN and PA, providing the forecasts to determine Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness, or TCCOR, for all U.S. military installations on Okinawa.

Photo Caption:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Richelle Greer, 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight commander, points out the tropical cyclone conditions of readiness on the monitor in preparation for typhoon season on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 6, 2019. During typhoon operations, meteorologists and oceanographers from the 18th OSS Kadena Weather Flight, 353rd Special Operations Group Weather Flight, Navy Oceanography, Anti-Submarine Warfare Detachment Kadena, and III Marine Expeditionary Force Weather, combine as Joint Weather Okinawa and work together ensuring the safety of U.S. personnel on Okinawa.

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