Face of Defense: Weather Forecaster Supports Counterdrug Ops
By Air Force Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
52nd Fighter Wing
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany, Feb. 26, 2013 He didn't know where it was to or what it was for, and he’d been on station here for only two months, but when Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adrian Jackson heard about a short-notice tasking to deploy, he volunteered immediately.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adrian Jackson rides in an Army helicopter during his deployment to Apiay Air Base, Colombia. Jackson is a member of the 52nd Fighter Wing weather flight at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. He volunteered to deploy and is supporting U.S. soldiers as they work with Colombian forces to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions against terrorism and drugs. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Because he was new to base, he was ineligible to deploy for six months; however he wanted to go, so he worked to make it happen," said his supervisor, Air Force 1st Lt. Richelle Greer, 52nd Fighter Wing weather officer.
With his supervisor's approval, Jackson got a waiver to deploy.
Jackson found out he was going to Apiay Air Base, Colombia, to support the Colombian air force with the U.S. Army's 204th Military Intelligence Battalion as a weather operator. The battalion works with Colombian forces to conduct counterdrug operations.
To prepare, he had to act fast. Greer said Jackson worked seven days a week and completed computer-based training while on leave to get all pre-deployment tasks completed in time.
Jackson now is deep in the Colombian countryside where little to no English is spoken, supporting the 204th MIB by providing up-to-the-minute weather data, forecasts and analysis so the battalion can conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations successfully.
Greer, who previously had deployed to Apiay Air Base, said she thought Jackson was a good candidate for the job. She described him as a very competent noncommissioned officer and a detailed weather forecaster, which she said is important in any weather shop, but especially in a two-person shop.
"Forecasting the weather in Colombia is a challenge for many reasons," Jackson said. The weather that includes severe thunderstorms, cyclones, unpredictable winds and extreme temperatures, he explained.
"The mountainous terrain, radar coverage, language barriers, different combat operations and hostile ground forces only add to the challenges,” he said. “Weather forecasters here must use all of their training to provide sound, proficient support to accomplish the mission."
Because the weather changes so frequently and affects the mission so heavily, the shop is always on-call. This means that one of the two forecasters must always be on the base, Jackson said. When they do go off base, they must be accompanied by Army counterintelligence officers and must be in an up-armored vehicle, because the mission poses a threat to narcoterrorist groups in the area, he added.
"If he is called to forecast for a mission and finds there is going to be a thunderstorm, the mission is most likely a no-go, so the weather dictates the mission for the most part," Greer said. "You have to have a reliable forecaster to know if it's safe to do the mission. For him to be able to adjust his knowledge and portray his expertise is testament to his abilities.
"You can send him anywhere in the world, and he'll do great things," she said.