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Cloudy with a chance of F-35s

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Luis E. Rios Calderon
  • 75th Operations Support Squadron

Whether it's rain, thunder or fire, weather forecasters around the U.S. Air Force provide pilots with active, timely and relevant weather forecasts so they are able to operate in a safe environment, execute their missions effectively and come back home safely no matter what nature throws at them.

“This isn’t our regular place of operation, so we had to learn new weather patterns that affect this area of Japan,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Darin Newberry, 75th Operations Support Squadron mission integration non-commissioned officer in charge. “On top of being dislocated from our regular equipment, we are limited to what our counterparts in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force have, so we had to learn, adapt and be agile in order to execute our side of the mission effectively during the Aviation Training Relocation exercise.”

ATR exercises are routine, two-week exercises designed to increase bilateral interoperability between two nation’s fighter pilots while increasing operational readiness of both nations.

Newberry noted the contrast of the dryness of Utah’s terrain at Hill Air Force Base, compared to Japan’s island climate of diverse terrain and humidity, which added to the challenges that both the 75th OSS and 4th Fighter Squadron faced during their time deployed at Tsuki Air Base during the ATR and in Okinawa.

“We have rules and quick references we made over the course of decades that we could call on to make our own forecast back at Hill, but being out here we didn’t have that same information,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Levi Burkett, 75th OSS weather forecaster. “But thanks to Sgt. Newberry speaking Japanese and talking with the Tsuiki Weather Flight, it helped us be able to hit the ground running.”

Burkett said Newberry's proficiency in Japanese helped the team navigate around many of the potential obstacles they would’ve faced due to language barriers that would normally be there, so having him around to lean on for the skills he gained from the Language Enabled Airman Program felt like a blessing.

The LEAP is an Air Force Culture and Language Center volunteer program open to enlisted and commissioned Airmen in most career fields. The program helps develop language enabled, cross-cultural service members across the general purpose force to a working-level foreign language proficiency.

“The exercise was actually at risk of being canceled — potentially wasting millions of dollars in resources due to there being an active volcano, causing concerns over our aircraft’s engines and ash clouds,” said Newberry, as he recounted on his previous experience working in Japan.

Getting that information normally would have taken a lot more time and effort, but Newberry was able to get the information their pilots needed more quickly, ultimately contributing to the mission’s success.

LEAP Airmen are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, with the language, culture and technical skills needed in diverse environments to strengthen strategic connections with partners and allies, enable agile combat employment and support large-scale operations all over the globe.

“I wasn’t just able to help with the coordination, but also with personal problems we encountered along the way, ” said Newberry. “Things from roadside assistance, to our stay at the hotel and even ordering food. So just having someone with those language skills helps bolster our mission capabilities and what we are able to do in foreign nations.”

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