Weathercaster Helps Build Partnership in Estonia

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
It should be pretty out right now, Staff Sgt. John Broughton says, pointing toward the window with his chin.

Broughton, an Air Force weather forecaster, is in charge of determining how much "blue" there will be in the Wild Blue Yonder on any given day. This week and next, he's on the job in Estonia, forecasting the weather in support of part of Saber Strike 2012, a multi-national exercise based in Estonia and Latvia.

Broughton is a member of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard, which is home-stationed at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, not far from Detroit. As a traditional member of the Air National Guard, he works as a banker in the civilian sector and then dons Air Force Blue one weekend per month and then for a couple of weeks of active duty every year - or more often if the call comes down from headquarters.

"I've always been passionate about the weather - the scientific end of it and the teaching end," Broughton said. "The biggest challenge is the inexactness of it all and trying to cut through that and provide an accurate forecast."

Broughton's job is to provide the weather forecast for the Michigan aircraft operating from the Amari Air Base in Estonia during Saber Strike. Typically, his forecasts are just used by the A-10 squadron, but for the exercise, he's providing support to both the A-10s and the KC-135s.

The Michigan Air National Guard is contributing about 150 Airmen and two different types of aircraft - the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker - to the exercise, which is designed to promote regional stability and security, strengthen international military partnering and fostering trust while improving interoperability between participating nations. A total of eight nations are participating in the exercise. During the exercise, Broughton worked closely with 1st Lt. Svetlana Puustusmaa, who works at the operations center at the Amari Air Base. Part of her job is to provide local weather condition information to the Estonian military.

"This is a partnership-building exercise," said Lt. Col. Bill Henderson, a Michigan Air National Guard KC-135 pilot who is serving as the Michigan detachment commander at Amari. "Our Airmen are working directly with their Estonian counterparts, building partnership at the person-to-person level."

That means Broughton and Puustusmaa are working together on taking local weather observations and and providing weather reports to pilots in the exercise.

"In Estonia, you have several different weather systems coming in to play," Broughton said, after comparing notes with Puustusmaa. "In this part of the North Atlantic you are at the receiving end of the gulf stream, with heavy influences in the weather from western Asia and the western plains of Russia, as well as the Arctic Circle."

Broughton spent about 10 years on active duty in the Air Force, then was out of the Air Force for a dozen years before he re-joined the Michigan Air National Guard about seven years ago.

"My only regret is that I didn't get into the Guard right after I left active duty," he said.

Since he first started in the Air Force weather forecasting business in 1986, Broughton said the technology has changed dramatically.

"The evolution of doppler radar, color graphics and remarkably better satellite capabilities have really improved the product we are able to provide to our pilots and flight crews," Broughton said.