Weather flight forecasts for missile field

  • Published
  • By Airman Daniel Brosam
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
As a weather forecaster, it is impossible to predict exactly what type of weather is going to be at a specific location. Forecasters must rely on special charts, graphs, satellite images and other equipment to estimate the path of inbound conditions.

If monitoring one local area such as a small city is not tricky enough, the 341st Operations Support Squadron weather flight must look after nearly 14,000 square miles of Malmstrom's intercontinental ballistic missile complex.

Eleven Airmen work almost 20 hours a day, split between four shifts: early, swing, late and administrative. These Airmen also pull a standby shift on the weekend to keep the 40th Helicopter Squadron safe and secure during flights.

Malmstrom AFB is one of three bases possessing 150 Minuteman III ICBMs that are readily available 365 days a year. Airmen travel more than 4 million miles a year to get to and from the missile field to maintain, secure and operate the missile compounds.

To ensure the mission is executed successfully, Airman 1st Class David Alley, 341st OSS weather forecaster, must calculate road conditions, visibility and temperatures to create reports to brief commanders every day.

"I have to pay attention to the radar and monitor the weather," said Alley. "If there is anything hazardous to the helicopters or personnel, such as lightning or severe winds, I have to call in the warning and let people know."

Alley said he feels his job is important because of the criticality of safety in transporting Airmen back and forth to the missile field.

"I have to tell them if there's snowfall or winds," said Alley. "If the roads become slushy and ice over, the wind could blow them over and cause them to crash."

Safety is always a priority in completing any task and Alley said if he briefs the wrong weather during a movement, Airmen's lives could potentially be at risk.

"If they go and it's bad weather and they get hurt, that's my fault," said Alley. "If I give a good forecast on a bad weather day, I feel like I am saving lives."

The entire weather flight uses their training and predictions to keep Team Malmstrom and the public safe from earth's natural elements and the power of surprise.

Alley said he feels his team has a vast array of knowledge that he can pull from and there is always someone who can help when he is in need.

"If I am unsure how to forecast for something, someone has to know," said Alley. "They're very knowledgeable, experienced, supportive and they are good mentors."