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159th Weather Flight supports Florida Army National Guard during exercise

An Airmen tracks weather patterns over Florida during the July exercise with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brownfield

An Airmen tracks weather patterns over Florida during the July exercise with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brownfield

CAMP BLANDING JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Fla. -- Members of Florida Air National Guard's 159th Weather Flight provided up-to-date tactical weather information for the Florida Army National Guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 111th Aviation Regiment during combat training exercises that began in mid-July.

"We support the 53rd IBCT with weather intelligence products such as mission execution forecast which includes winds, pressure, visibility, cloud height, and other atmospheric phenomena on the spot and at that location," said Lt. Col. John Waltbillig, commander of the 159th Weather Flight.

These services meet the Army National Guard goal of receiving a three hour lead time to any significant weather events that could inhibit the mission of Soldiers on the ground.

"Weather forecast and observation are key parameters for all Army missions," Waltbillig added.

While providing essential services for the Army National Guard, the 159th Weather Flight also received important training. Ten 159th Weather Flight Airmen took part in the training.

"Most of our unit received training and annual recertification of core tasks in our career field," Waltbillig said. "We trained the weather flight in their skills and core tasks, but also the Soldiers of the 53rd on how to use the Weather Flight to help them accomplish their mission."

Staff Sgt. Morgan Burns, a Staff Weather Officer, provided weather support for the 53rd IBCT as part of her annual recertification as a weather forecaster.

"We are learning the products they want and they are learning about what products we can provide. Then we try and meet in the middle so that they can be operationally effective," she said. "In the event of a deployment, it is important to know your customer."

Interfacing two branches of service also presented some challenges to the goal of knowing your customer.

"Army acronyms are a big one...the culture of the Army is different than the Air Force," said Tech. Sgt. Carlos Urrutia, a Staff Weather Officer who has served as a weather forecaster for 13 year and provided weather aviation support for the Army National Guard 111th Aviation Regiment during the exercise.

The 159th WF was not without insight during the joint-service training exercise.

Master Sgt. Lauri Kinker transferred to the 159th WF from the 53rd IBCT in May. She brought with her more than twelve years of experience as an ARNG intelligence analyst and will attend weather forecasting school this August.

"We worked closely with the Weather-Flight to find out how the weather would not only impact the enemy, but also how it impacted the Soldiers on the ground," Kinker said. "I bring the intelligence piece I know how we can support the intelligence section to be value added."