MAY 31, 2017, FORT WORTH, Texas – Among the most highly trained fleet of Airmen in the Texas Air National Guard are those from the Air Force Special Operations Weather Team. Far from the typical expectation of meteorologists, Air Force Special Operations Weather Team (SOWT) Airmen undergo unique training to operate in hostile and denied territories to provide on-the-ground weather reporting to Air Force and joint service special operations units.
SOWT members maintain weather and weapon system qualifications in addition to advanced special tactics skills that provide them with the expertise needed to gather, assess and interpret environmental data and forecast operational impacts in deployed locations.
To stay current in their capabilities, SOWT Airmen from the 181st Weather Flight, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, stationed at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base executed a deliberate water jump into Lake Worth in Fort Worth, Texas, May 20, 2017. The training mission was scheduled for members to practice airborne covert water parachute infiltration and included a joint effort between the Texas Air National Guard, Army, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and local fire department.
“This was a big tactical training day for us and the first time any unit has parachuted into Lake Worth,” said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Hobbs, 181st Weather Flight superintendent. “An intentional water drop is done to put us offshore where we can quietly swim in to reach an objective and remain uncompromised. Typically due to logistics it is easier for us to go and train with a larger unit that has more support capability. So, for us to pull this off and be able to coordinate with internal and external state and federal agencies improved our relations and strengthened our overall capabilities as a force and unit.”
The mission allowed 12 service members to parachute out of a C-130 Hercules from an altitude of 1000 feet into Lake Worth using MC-6 parachutes. Members of the local fire department and Coast Guard Auxiliary provided boat support to aid in parachute and jumper recovery, and provide medevac capabilities if necessary.
“This was the first time we were able to do something like this as far as recovery,” said Ralph Diamond, Fort Worth Fire Department battalion chief. “There are more than 900 firefighters in the city with a lot of diverse backgrounds and skills sets, and several of those guys also serve in the military. We were able to utilize those internal relationships to train on things that we don’t have the opportunity to do as often. We also get to improve our methods on-the- ground, as far as communication and working through these missions to make sure they run smoothly in the future. It truly benefits both sides and it was very exciting to see some of our own jumping out of that aircraft.”
Master Sgt. James Henderson, 181st Weather Flight special operations weatherman, one of the six Guard members who also serves as a firefighter with the Fort Worth Fire Department, said the jump was successful and enjoyed working with both agencies.
“It really went great,” Henderson said. “Everyone came together and worked really well to make the mission happen. Working with other branches of special operations and being able to integrate the local department was helpful because it connects different agencies and allows us to work side-by- side to provide response and recovery that could be used in the future. It helps to rehearse and go over any potential malfunctions or mishaps – that way we are always ready.”
Teamwork is an essential element for SOWT members, as they regularly work with different services and organizations. Sgt. Hobbs concluded that without the assistance of everyone involved, there could be no mission success.
“It’s really all thanks to the people who helped out,” Hobbs said. “Without them – the aircrew, operations group, Carswell Field senior leadership and the city of Fort Worth, it wouldn’t have happened. We are a small unit so we rely heavily on other people to help us out. Having the special operations detachment, the 294th Quartermaster unit from Austin, the Fort Worth Fire Department and Lake Rangers, and Coast Guard Auxiliary assist and be a part of this coordination and mission made all the difference.”
By Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas National Guard