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Weather units earn command honors

U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Jerry Rutland, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, flies a WC-130J into the early morning sunrise as they approach Hurricane Florence Sept. 12, 2018. The U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters are conducting a reconnaissance mission to provide critical and timely weather data for the National Hurricane Center to assist in providing up-to-date and accurate information for storm forecasts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Jerry Rutland, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, flies a WC-130J into the early morning sunrise as they approach Hurricane Florence Sept. 12, 2018. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is the Weather Squadron of the Year and the 5th Operational Weather Flight is the Weather Organization of the Year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The Air Force Reserve Command recognized two 403rd Wing units for excellence in the weather career field.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is the Weather Squadron of the Year and the 5th Operational Weather Flight is the Weather Organization of the Year.

Also known as the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, the 53rd WRS is the only Department of Defense unit that annually flies weather reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather June 1 to Nov. 30. The information they gather is sent to the National Hurricane Center, which improves their forecasts and storm warnings. 

“This squadron has a unique mission, and it’s great to have our contribution to the exceptional efforts of the Air Force’s broader weather operations mission recognized,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Green, 53rd WRS commander. “The efforts of the aerial reconnaissance weather officers and crewmembers make a profound impact on NHC forecasts that protect life and property.”

The award recognizes squadron achievements for the 2017 and 2018 season. In 2017, the 53rd WRS flew a historic Atlantic hurricane season with 707 flight hours during 95 missions into 10 named storms. They flew three storms—Irma, Jose and Katia—simultaneously from three different locations. This year, the Pacific was very active with the squadron flying 446 hours during 20 mission in two months.

The 5th OWF, assigned to the 403rd Wing here but located at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., was also awarded for their contributions to AFRC and the AF. They support the 28th Operational Weather Squadron, also located at Shaw. The 28th OWS provides weather information to all branches of the U.S. military and Coalition partners deployed to the United States Central Command area of responsibility, which encompasses 25 countries spanning 6.43 million square miles on two continents.

According to Maj. Mary Butler, 5th Operational Weather Flight commander, the unit performed more than 1,000 supporting operations such as Eager Lion, Bright Star, Invincible Sentry, Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve. This resulted in 1,500 weather products impacting more than 13,000 stories, 6,800 munitions releases, and 26 million pounds of fuel offloaded.

"This award highlights the tremendous effort put forth by the men and women of the 5th. The unit made significant gains in three areas this year - readiness, mission expansion, and professional development,” said Butler. “We did it while performing over 1,300 (Military Personnel Appropriation) days in support of U.S. Air Forces Central Command flying missions. The gains in our priority areas enhanced our support to the warfighter."