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USAF officer trains Afghan Air Force meteorologists

By By Capt. Edith Sakura, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Nov. 18, 2015 — KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 18, 2015) — Building the Afghan Air Force from the ground-up takes time, equipment, and capable and professional people to sustain it.

Capt. Haley Homan, Train, Advise, Assist Command – Air (TAAC-Air) weather adviser, is deployed here from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, to advise the AAF meteorologists and weather forecasters on how to provide weather support to the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Her advisory duties include daily planning forecasts for various locations throughout the country, specialized flight weather briefings for aviators, and issuing watches, warnings, and advisories to warn Airmen and soldiers of impending inclement weather.

“[The rewarding part of my job is] teaching new weather concepts and watching their faces light up when they understand, and they are able to apply what they’ve learned in order to produce weather products used to support AAF and [Afghan National Army] operations.”

Language barriers have been the most challenging part of her job.

“Although I have a great translator working alongside me, there are many technical terms that aren't easily translated into Dari, so many times I have to give additional explanation of a term and come up with creative ways of explaining what it means to make sure the correct translation is given.”

Recently the AAF director of meteorology hosted a two-week course at the Kabul Air Wing where five Afghan weather officers from across Afghanistan came together to hone their skills and learn new techniques.

Homan said the coordination and logistics of getting all five personnel to Kabul was done completely by the AAF director of meteorology, which is an important step to ensure the AAF is professional, capable and sustainable.

She attended the training courses daily, but stood back and let her Afghan counterpart take the lead. She jumped in every so often to provide input or demonstrate practical applications with weather instrumentation.

“We trained on how to take manual observations using a hand-held device called a Kestrel,” the Nebraska-native said. “We also looked at other aspects of weather observation such as visibility, sky condition, present weather, and wind direction, which the Kestrel cannot sense, and are performed by the weather.”

One Afghan weather officer from Herat, a city approximately 400 miles west of Kabul, said through an interpreter that they worked outside doing practical exercises with the Kestrel and recorded the altitude of the clouds, temperatures, visibility levels and dew point readings.

“The weather was rainy that day and there were many low-hanging clouds … it was a good practical exercise,” he said.

These visual readings help the AAF weather officers prepare reports for pilots and ANA commanders to support mission requirements.

“Knowing how to take proper observations is very important since this is the only way other AAF forecasters are able to know what the current weather conditions are at different locations,” Homan said. “At this time, the amount of real-time observations is limited which makes it very difficult to provide accurate weather information to the military operations who need it.”

Homan said advising has been the most rewarding job she’s had in the U.S. Air Force.

“If I had the opportunity to volunteer to do this again there would be no doubt in my mind … Yes!”