Weather Flight forecasts mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Apryl Hall
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
"You're not in Kansas anymore."

These are the words Shawnee, Kan. native Staff Sgt. Zak A. Kinsey, 5th Operations Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of mission weather, lives by daily at Minot Air Force Base.

Weather is a hot topic anywhere in the world, but seems to be focused on a bit more frequently in Minot. Due to high winds, floods or the infamous winter storms, Minot weather is anything but predictable.

Growing up in Kansas, Kinsey knew all about turbulent weather before joining the Air Force. In fact, storm-chasing became a frequent hobby for him and his friends, he said. It is his fascination with weather that makes his job in the Air Force something he looks forward to every day.

"I had no clue weather was an option as a career in the military," said Kinsey. "When it was offered, I jumped right on it and was really excited."

Although Kinsey enjoys his job, forecasting can be stressful, he said. Taking several pieces of information, looking at up to 30 different products, putting them together and then making a prediction is similar to putting together an enormous puzzle. The key to making the work worthwhile is being right.

"From the surface up to over 100,000 feet, taking all of that information and putting it together, it's just an amazing feat," said Kinsey.

Another gratifying part of the job for the Weather Flight Airmen is their morning briefings, Kinsey said. This is when the whole shop sits down and makes their forecast predictions for the day. Regardless of rank, everyone is on an equal playing field when it comes to forecasting.

"It's truly amazing that the Airmen are able to have such a large responsibility," said Kinsey. "A forecast could impact operations for both wings."

For Kinsey and the rest of the Weather Flight Airmen, preparing for the fast-approaching winter season is at the forefront of their minds.

"Winter brings a whole new set of challenges," said Kinsey. "We really have to put our heads together trying to come up with the best forecast and find out what really is going to happen out there."

During the winter season, the community becomes more interested in the weather forecasts, said Kinsey. Due to winter storms affecting day-to-day life more drastically than bad summer weather, everyone on base wants to know what kind of weather to expect, resulting in all eyes being on the work put out by the Weather Flight.

"Weather touches everything, from the boots on the ground to the birds in the air," said Kinsey. "Our job is to take the chaos that is happening on this planet and tell you what's going to happen."