Forecasting for the military

Updated: Mar. 29, 2021 at 3:08 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FORT STEWART, Ga. (WTOC) - Each branch of the military has specialized units. One unit of the Air Force based at Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart helps forecast for troops.

A funnel cloud over the Wynn Army Airfield on March 18 prompted the SWOs, or Staff Weather Officers, to issue their own tornado warning for Fort Stewart

“They saw rotation at the lowest levels of the radar; from there we issued our tornado warning which is specific for Fort Stewart,” said Maj. Blake Hamilton, USAF 18th Combat Weather Squadron.

Maj. Hamilton is just one of roughly 50 SWOs stationed between Hunter and Stewart - that’s a hundred eyes and ears making sure our soldiers and airmen are safe from severe weather.

“We have so many SWOs so we can embed into the different brigades and battalions to provide a competitive advantage for 3rd ID and its support agencies against its adversaries,” he said.

Weather officers forecast our spring and summertime storms to storms overseas.

“I’m a huge history buff and love reading about the D-Day forecast and how that changed history,” said Senior MSGT. Jeff Williams, USAF 18th Combat Weather Squadron.

Williams has been forecasting for the Air Force for 19 years. He knows weather can impact any mission.

“I definitely think that what we do may play a role in the shaping of our country under certain circumstances,” he said.

Above deployments, Maj. Hamilton admits it is tough forecasting tornadoes in this part of the Coastal Empire - prime example - a tornado on Fort Stewart in 2016.

“Sometimes you can see a sense of helplessness if you know the storm is going right for them and there’s not enough time for them to move particularly if they’re in a building. Buildings don’t necessarily stand up to all tornadoes; we’ve seen that with several recent storms,” Maj. Hamilton said.

The signals from the two radars that cover the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry cannot follow the curvature of the earth. So, by the time that straight line signal is searching the skies over Fort Stewart, it’s just too high to pick up low altitude events - making all those eyes and ears on the ground imperative.

“But when you really nail a forecast and get those people out of harm’s way; it’s definitely pride,” Maj. Hamilton said.

Copyright 2021 WTOC. All rights reserved.