On the Prowl

Members of the Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, recently deployed from Keesler AFB, Miss., to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands to train for the 2009 hurricane season, which runs through October. These airmen, “the Hurricane Hunters,” are the only unit in the Air Force that operates WC-130Js, specifically modified transport aircraft equipped with sophisticated weather-monitoring gear. They fly directly into hurricanes and severe storm fronts along the US Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico to provide critical data to weather forecasters to help them predict the course of the storms. “Having an operating center in St. Croix allows us to fly longer in the storms that are near here,” said Lt. Col. Roger Gardner, aircraft commander for these training missions. He added, “It would be impractical to fly the mission from our home base at Keesler.” (St. Croix report by Janie Santos)