LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
When a young pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas complained about receiving a wind advisory while on pilot rest, the response received, “we don’t have time for crew rest” was probably more than expected.
The 47th Operations Group weather flight, a team comprised of meteorologists and weather technicians, safeguard the base’s Airmen and billion dollar fleet from adverse or hazardous weather conditions.
Capt. Dan Schreiber, 47th OG weather flight chief, backed up his flight’s motto with the reality of working in the shop 24/7, seven days a week, including holidays.
“Weather doesn’t stop, so neither can we,” Schreiber said. “We take care of more than just the flying mission—we also have three other groups plus the wing staff agencies that rely on timely weather forecasts. It impacts all of the base.”
Crucial to the flying mission, weather provides real-time updates and briefing information not only to the pilots, but also, air traffic controllers (ATC) who aid pilots already in the skies and maintainers who work all day, every day on the flightline, according to Master Sgt. Corie Reimer, 47th OG weather NCO in charge.
“The backbone of the shop is our two master sergeants and our Airmen,” Schreiber said. “The day-to-day forecasting, getting the planes out the door, [and] talking to the pilots, that’s all done under their watchful eyes.”
Helping provide this information is a wide array of sensors, measuring devices and the base’s NexRAD WSR-88D satellite. The satellite, a part of a bigger network of satellites across the southern US, can help the team see into the mountains of Mexico and warn the base well in advance of an impending storm.
“A lot of folks have heard the term ‘a million dollar question,’ but in my world, it’s the billion dollar question,” Schreiber said. “I say that because you have approximately 1 billion dollars in just aircraft sitting out on the runway, not including base infrastructure that’s relying on us to make the right call.”
The services the flight provides are also sometimes extended to other federal agencies, the National Weather Service or neighboring communities, according to both Schreiber and Reimer. In severe cases, warnings are sent out to help aid agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Del Rio police department, and Val Verde County sheriffs.
In conjunction with federal agencies, the flight, having come from U.S. Air Force bases and U.S. Army posts all over the country, according to Reimer, have the unique opportunity to receive a vast array of training from different services to help aid their forecasting.
When the clouds turn dark and gray, and the next storm rolls into town, the weather flight will be there in full force to help ensure Laughlin’s Airmen, the fleet, and base are all warned and ready to respond to anything.