Face of Defense: Guardsman Has Complementary Dual Roles
By Air Force Airman 1st Class Lillian Chatwin
American Forces Press Service
SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 16, 2010 When he’s asked about the upcoming weather forecast, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Sterling Poulson switches to his "TV voice" to report, "It's 70 degrees outside and pretty nice!"
Then-Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sterling Poulson of the Utah Air National Guard gives a live weather report wearing his uniform during the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Now a senior master sergeant, Poulson is a traditional Air Guardsman as well as a local television weatherman in Salt Lake City. U.S. Air Force photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"People come in here five or six times a day wanting to know what the weather's going to be like," said Poulson, a weatherman for the nightly news on KUTV Channel 2 here and the public affairs noncommissioned officer in charge for the Utah Air National Guard state headquarters.
When prompted, Poulson made a few taps on his keyboard, looked at a bunch of multi-colored dotted lines on a map of the United States, and then presented a full weather report with the fervor of a veteran forecaster.
"Looks like snow Monday night and Tuesday morning, with another storm rolling in here on Wednesday,” he said. “It's going to get cold, cold, cold with temperatures in the 40s. Friday will be partly cloudy and a little warmer, with a high of 48. Looks like snow on Saturday, and temperatures probably won't climb out of the 30s this weekend.
"Summer is pretty much over," Poulson added with a chuckle. "There's going to be a storm about every four days, and it just keeps getting colder and colder."
That’s not what Air Force Lt. Col. Cecilia Nackowski, the chief of plans and programs, whose desk sits directly across from Poulson’s, wanted to hear. "Can you delay that?" she asked.
"For how long?" Poulson asked after only a short pause.
"Three weeks!" the colonel replied.
Poulson laughed. "In three weeks, you will have shoveled your driveway three more times," he said.
Poulson's roles as a TV weatherman in civilian life and a public affairs specialist with the Air Guard are complementary and have proven mutually beneficial, he said.
"Everything I learned about weather, I learned in the military," he said. "When I first went to Offutt Air Force Base [in Nebraska], I worked under Col. Robert Miller. He's the one who wrote 'the book' on severe weather forecasting, and I got to learn a lot from him. I soaked it up like a sponge.
It was like going to a seminar every day."
Poulson began his Air Force career right out of high school in 1969 as an aerospace ground equipment operator. He served in that capacity during a deployment to Vietnam for 13 months in 1970 and 1971.
In 1975, Poulson decided to retrain into weather forecasting in pursuit of a childhood fascination he gained after observing eight inches of rainfall within 24 hours. After training, he served as a severe storms forecaster in support of the Air Force Global Weather Center.
After 10 years of active-duty service, Poulson transitioned to reserve status in 1980 and was assigned to the weather detachment at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. He attended college at the University of Utah.
In 1984, he became a weather producer for KSL-TV. He started his long-running career as an anchorman, weather producer and meteorologist at KUTV in 1989.
Poulson has been a public affairs specialist with the Utah Air Guard since 2000. He writes his own scripts and acts as the master of ceremonies for most of the Utah Guard's major annual events, such as the Governor's Day parade and the Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day concerts. He has hosted several Minuteman and Hometown Hero Award ceremonies and narrated the history of the Utah Air National Guard in a DVD production titled "60 Years of Distinction."
"They call me the voice of the Guard," Poulson said with a smile. He attributes his ease at public speaking to his 21 years of experience being on camera at KUTV.
His employer is very supportive of the military and his role in the Guard, he said.
"The cool thing about my employment at 2News is I can give the Guard a little visibility," he said. "I can do live shots at the VA concert in uniform, and make sure we talk about the concert on TV. I can do public affairs spots and place public service announcements that let people know about the event."
Since his college days, Poulson has had a strong interest in music, and he founded Choral Arts Society of Utah in 1987. As the music director of this 100-voice choir, he has collaborated several times with the Utah Guard's 23rd Army Band for events such as the Armed Forces Day concert.
Poulson has been recognized in both his military and media careers. In 2008, he won a silver Utah Broadcaster Award for a television news story he covered in Morocco in support of the African Lion medical mission with the 151st Medical Group. He also received the 2010 Senior NCO of the Year award for the Utah Air National Guard. He’s scheduled to retire from the Guard in September.