Thor’s Legion Forecast Challenge

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The 97th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight at Altus Air Force Base, took seventh place in the Thor’s Legion Forecast Challenge, Nov. 9, 2017, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. This competition was across 49 Air Force weather flights, which had them forecast nine real world locations in the span of two weeks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 97th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight participated in the first Thor’s Legion Forecast Challenge initiated by the Pentagon’s Air Force director of weather. During this competition, 49 Air Force weather flights tested their capabilities by forecasting several locations from Oct. 10-20, 2017.

“Out of everybody in the Air Force, we took seventh place, which puts us in the top 15 percent of forecasters,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Hale, 97th Operations Support Squadron weather craftsman. “It gave us a gauge of how strong we are as forecasters and as a flight. We did well, so it shows that we take our job seriously here and that we give the best products we can.”

The competition tested the weather flight’s ability to forecast areas they wouldn’t normally perform on a daily basis.

“This competition included nine randomly selected areas that made us dig into their local procedures and weather conditions,” said Hale. “It made us pull out all our forecasting tools we don’t normally have to use, since here in Altus we only experience certain weather. In the competition we experience every type of weather you could think of and it definitely sharpened all of our forecasting abilities in the process.”

The competition being a couple weeks long, allowed time to measure the effectiveness of Air Force weather flights while still having time for each flight to perform their primary duties.

“We were notified a week ahead of time about the competition,” said Hale. “We received an email about the rules and they pretty much said, ‘give it your best, go.’ Since the weather changes every day you can’t prepare for what the actual weather is like at all times. We only have so much time to produce forecasts for the competition and our regular duties. We didn’t feel rushed ir underprepared we worked as a team and gave the challenge our best.”

The Altus area doesn’t receive constant severe weather, but it’s not sunshine all the time.
“Altus has the possibility of tornadoes, freezing rain and things of that nature,” said Hale. “Since I’ve been here at Altus, the weather is very challenging and being here has increased my experience as a weather forecaster. Weather flights are valuable in making people aware of incoming irregular or dangerous weather so they can respond accordingly. The competition was a little easier by being here, but it did not prepare us for weather conditions we have never measured. In the end, the competition helped us with our forecasting ability in other locations and proves our forecasting skill for the base and the local populace.”

Hale has been at Altus AFB for about nine months and has benefited from his time here and being part of the weather flight competition. This new formed challenge could change the effectiveness of weather flights around the Air Force.

“This competition was like weather’s version of Top Gun,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Sean Blaisdell, 97th OSS weather flight chief. “In all of my years in the weather field, I have never heard or participated in anything like this. It’s beneficial to give Airmen a challenge with a little learning competition. Having fun with it and getting to show off our forecasts was a great change of pace.”

In the end, it’s about illustrating to the weather flights the capabilities of their jobs. The weather flight here measures Altus and the surrounding areas to ensure safety for the Airmen working on the ground and the Airmen training in the sky.

“The competition showed us what we are capable of with our duties, but that doesn’t mean we can be complacent,” said Hale. “We didn’t know before the competition how well we would do against any other base because this hasn’t been done before. We just knew that we performed with our best ability. If we had the chance to compete in the completion again, I think we would do a lot better from the experience we learned here.”