BAFB, La. (KSLA) - As Hurricane Laura barreled towards Louisiana, airmen with the 26th Operational Weather Squadron were hard at work to ensure around-the-clock forecasts, flight weather briefings and weather advisories, watches and warnings.
The squadron produces and provides information for mission planning and weather forecasts for the Air Force, Army and other forces at over 100 installations in the Southeast United States. They provide tens of thousands of weather warnings, advisories, forecasts and briefings every year.
143 airmen currently serve in the squadron. One of them is Staff Sergeant Daniel Bowman.
The weather forecasters shift supervisor says as Laura made it’s way to and through Louisiana, the squadron was creating and providing the most accurate, up-to-the-minute information.
For Hurricane Laura, the 26th worked around-the-clock to provide support to 129 different installations while on generator power as the storm was passing through Louisiana.
“As a team, I have my forecasters and I normally have two to three forecasters below me and they are working with the more sight specifics," Bowman said. "They will each individually be going over 4 or 5 different DOD locations and with that they will be on the phone constantly with the weather flights, with the people on the ground at those locations. They will relay that information to me and then we will come up with a plan as to resource protection.”
In fact, it was the information the squadron provided that led Barksdale to relocate their B-52′s ahead of Hurricane Laura.
Staff Sergeant Bowman says right after the storm passed through Northwest Louisiana, their squadron got a call from the Civil Air Patrol.
“They called requesting support for the Hurricane relief act, so they were already turning and burning to get planes and people together for the relief in the aftermath, especially for the southern Louisiana individuals," Bowman said. "When it hit through Lake Charles it was devastating. People needed help and they were already, as soon as it made it through Arkansas, we were already planning support to make sure people got the help that they needed.”
Since then, thousands have assisted those affected by Hurricane Laura.
Staff Sergeant Bowman says working for the squadron is an amazing responsibility.
“You get an opportunity to a look as to what is to be expected in the future and to better help the Air Force by predicting, especially when it comes to severe weather, and giving those generals and high ranking officers the opportunity to use your knowledge and skill set to better aid and resource protection and to help save lives.” Bowman said. “Here at Barksdale we produced watches and warnings for Laura and with that, provided the decision makers with products to help them make decisions. It shows weather drives behavior. Whenever the generals and officers need to make decisions, they can come to us."
In addition to its operational mission, the 26th serves as the training center for 20 percent of all new Air Force enlisted forecasters and weather officers.