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CS ground radar systems flight's maintenance prowess gives OSS clear outlook on weather

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
In order to secure weather data for the 36th Wing's extensive flying mission, two squadrons work closely together in a symbiotic relationship tailored to ensure mission success. 

The 36th Communications Squadron's ground radar systems flight maintains an off-base Next Generation Weather Radar, or NEXRAD , valued at more than $3 million. The radar is primarily used by the 36th Operations Support Squadron, but the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Weather Service also use the lone weather radar on the island. 

The four-person crew monitors the radar remotely to ensure functionality and makes on-site visits twice per week to run quality assurance checks on the equipment. 

"If there's an issue with a part on the radar, the computer controlling the system will issue us a warning," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Johnson, 36th CS noncommissioned officer in charge of ground radar systems. "If a part breaks or the radar goes down, we'll report to the site as a two-person team and work on the issue until it is resolved." 

The repair process can take up to several hours to complete. The flight keeps a stockpile of additional parts on hand to ensure they are prepared to fix any problem at any time. 

"We have a good supply of replacement parts on hand that were purchased by the 36th OSS," Sergeant Johnson said. "This puts us at a clear advantage because it can take up to a week to order and receive a replacement part we do not already have available." 

According to Capt. Stephen Moorehead, 36th OSS weather flight commander, many of the parts were purchased before the 2007 fiscal year closeout and his unit, as a primary user, provided strong justifications for purchasing the parts. 

"The big thing for us out here is that it's different from [many] other bases out there [because] we don't have the benefit of redundant coverage," Captain Moorehead said. "If our single radar goes down, we are in the dark. The only thing we have to back that up is satellite data, but it is not as timely as radar data or not as detailed." 

The teamwork between the two units doesn't stop there. Captain Moorehead praised the 36th CS Airmen for their level of flexibility in supporting the Theater Security Package and Continuous Bomber Presence. 

"They definitely work hard," Captain Moorehead said. "One thing they're fantastic about is they'll flex their schedule to meet the operations missions. Even when they're conducting regular maintenance on [the radar] and need to take the radar [offline], they always coordinate it with us so we can de-conflict the downtime with the flying schedule. A lot of times, that has them coming in at some crazy hours of the night because at 3 a.m., we won't have a lot of planes flying and it's the perfect time to take down the radar.

"They're so flexible and so willing to work around the high operations tempo of Andersen and make a real big difference in what we do," he added.