Cheating Death

Only five days after I wrote the last entry about our real enemies in Iraq, we faced one of them -- poor weather conditions -- and risked the lives of all of those aboard four of our aircraft.

As with every mission, we ran through our checklists, paying particular attention to the weather. Our process is to request current and forecasted weather conditions from several different agencies. While in Iraq, we've noticed weather reports issued are always, without fail, skewed -- or as the pilots say, "Lies!"

We have minimum requirements of a 1,000 foot ceiling and three statute miles visibility for flying at night. Every night we check the weather, it seems that current condition reports and forecasts aren't accurate. Weather professionals aren't always accurate at home -- in fact, they're wrong a lot -- but here you wonder if there is command pressure not to report below the legal limits for us to launch and fly missions.

This time, we checked weather and, you guessed it, the current conditions and forecasts all said we would experience visibility no lower than 3 miles, right at our minimums to fly. Our instincts and the cloudy skies we'd seen on our way in to work told us to consult the weather radar on the Internet to see what was brewing. We saw large cells of thunderstorms moving our way, but the forecasts and current conditions issued by the weather agencies online cited nothing but clear weather for the night.

At the pre-flight briefing, the briefing officer started out with "This is a lie, but I will read it to you anyway," then read the official weather forecast. We requested more detailed forecasts, specifically asking about the activity we were seeing on the radar, and were told weather was not going to be a factor for our flight period. So, we reviewed our flight route and planned weather checks at specific points during the flight. Then, we took off.

The first leg left us with no doubt that the weather was acceptable to make the next leg of the trip. We continued, heading east into Baghdad. As we did so, we began to see lightning flashes through our night vision goggles -- activity that was not visible to the naked eye, but close enough to cause us to request weather updates over the radio before our planned weather check points to the east.

The controlling agency over Baghdad gave a report that visibility remained "legal" and made no mention of lightning or impending storms. "Let's hurry up 'cause something is on its way and these bastards aren't admitting it," the pilot in command called over the radio to the other aircraft as we made our cargo drop and pickup in Baghdad.

We took off and asked the controlling agency what weather they were reporting. Again, nothing significant was mentioned. The passengers had no idea what was transpiring in the cockpit or in the air around them. They trusted that we would keep them safe and do the right thing. But the system was failing.

Suddenly, lightning struck just to the east of our location, about 5 miles away. We called the controlling agency and reported the weather we were experiencing. This would be the first true weather update the system would get, which could then be reported to other aircraft. Knowing that there were several sorties of aircraft in the sky between Al Taqaddum and Baghdad, and that all were at risk, we felt the need to start correcting the weather reporting. But we joked in the cockpit that our reports would be ignored or withheld from the other crews.

We flew west, heading home, thinking that the weather was behind us to the east over Baghdad, but then our goggles picked up lightning to the west. As the pilot not on the controls, I announced the conditions, then took off my goggles to see if the lightning was visible with the naked eye. It wasn't.

Halfway to TQ, we changed controlling agencies and requested a weather update from Al Fallujah. The update went something like this, although I'm not 100 percent certain about the ceiling height:

"Winds from the south at 5 knots, visibility 5 miles with a ceiling of 20,000 feet."

The pilot in command broke squelch and asked Fallujah "What about any reporting of thunderstorms?" Fallujah replied with "Nothing is reported within 40 nautical miles, sir." Over the intercom, the pilot in command asked, "Am I crazy? Doesn't that lightning look closer than 40 miles away?"

Then, keying the radio, he said, "Well, I am not sure what your source for weather is, but it is wrong and if you would step outside and look, you would see there is lightning within 40 miles of here. Thanks for the update. We are on our way to TQ."

With that, we continued on to the west thinking that the worst of the weather was still behind us, until we noticed the visibility dropping. TQ is only a 15 minute flight from Al Fallujah, and 5 minutes west of Fallujah, the visibility dropped to less than three miles. We began preparations for landing when the visibility dropped to almost nothing. The runway was less than four miles from our position and we couldn't see it. Each station in the aircraft called visibility less than a half mile.

This is where sweat began to permeate, and we went into survival mode, communicating and taking actions quickly, with no time for review.

I keyed the mic to check on the second aircraft at our "six." Its crew replied that they could still see us. I talked to TQ tower faster than they could talk back. Three miles out from landing, we declared ourselves en route to the airfield -- but then pulled a 180 degree turn.

"Return to Fallujah!" we radioed the second aircraft. They acknowledged and followed. We called TQ tower, telling them we were outbound, with visibility of a quarter mile. Another aircraft came over the radio approaching TQ from the northeast, where they said visibility was unlimited. Our response was to turn in their direction. I entered the northern point into the GPS, called the tower and got permission to head where visibility was supposedly unlimited. Permission granted. Only the visibility was no better.

Straight down is the only direction where we can see anything. Should we put it in a field right here, right now? Even though we're "across the wire" from TQ? Altitude 200 feet. Map out. Are there towers below us? Or wires? Other structures? No. Open fields, good! Put it down? No. Visibility still no better, we left turn straight in. Tower, we're inbound. Three tenths of a mile, no runway lights. Two tenths, a dim line. One tenth, finally there is a runway, okay, here we are. Tower, we are landing here and shutting down on taxiway Romeo.

Brakes are set, as we park the aircraft. I look at the pilot in command and he looks at me. Smiles on our faces that said, we did it, don't want to do it again, and holy crap let's get out of this thing! The relief was like nothing I have ever experienced. I had a thousand pound brick lifted off of my chest and took the largest, clearest breaths I have ever taken. Shutdown was quick and we started shedding our equipment like it was on fire. We wanted out and to put our feet on the ground. There were three other Punisher aircraft with crews similarly elated to be on the ground. As the crews met on the taxiway, one of the more experienced pilots in command shook my shoulder and said, "Well, you're not a virgin anymore."

As for the weather, I am sure the command has a bigger picture, where maybe more accurate forecasts would hinder the mission of transporting things by air. But my point of view is that the cost is just too great. Next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, I am sure our pilots will stay on the ground. The weather reporting agencies have cried wolf one time too many.

-- Written 5/10/2006

By Bert Stover |  May 22, 2006; 2:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
Previous: The Number One Threat in Iraq: Ourselves | Next: TQ Upgrades

Comments

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Bert,
I am so glad you got back to the airport. That is a truly bad situation made worse by the lack of weather information. You guys are smart, just be real conservative with your weather decisions. You cannot be replaced, and the ASR's can wait another day. Well done, good work as a crew, and great, honest reporting from the field. Yours Truly,

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 22, 2006 09:47 AM

My God, Bert, I was sitting on the edge of my chair reading your account. I hope that this situation never happens again for you or any of the other pilots. I can't imagine not giving you and the others the most accurate weather reports. You are absolutely right - the cost is too high! My God, we're worrying about your safety and what the enemy will do to you and then read this account and it sure sounds like what you wrote previously - the biggest threat is "ourselves". So glad you and the others are okay!

Regards,
Concerned Mom

Posted by: | May 22, 2006 10:03 AM

Bert,

Welcome to where echelons above reality provide directive feedback to folks with bad news. I'm glad you made it to ground safely, but I am equally certain that you'll get to tap dance on the margins a few more times before you go home. Just remember that the weather forecasters have cousins over in maintenance, supply and intelligence.

BTW, this is nothing new. Check out the "Willie and Joe" cartoons by Bill Mauldin over on the Stars and Stripes web site, especially the one one with a caption about waggling fingers.

Posted by: wlc over at Victory | May 22, 2006 10:39 AM

I was on the edge of my seat reading that...I'm SO SO glad you guys got down safely..that's most important but as a wife of 'one' of those aviators that was probably with you...please go with your instinct and what you, as pilots, KNOW the weather is and DO NOT fly if it is too dangerous! It's not worth it and the mission is NOT as important as your safety!

Be safe!

Posted by: SBP | May 22, 2006 10:43 AM

Bert, Welcome to the brotherhood of those who have scared the you-know-what out of themselves in an aircraft. I think I've told you my story, and I knew it wouldn't be long before you had one of your own. Pretty amazing range of emotions in less than 500 hours isn't it? Years from now you'll tell young pilots, "There I was..." Stay safe and give everyone a kick for me.

Posted by: CW4 Higg | May 22, 2006 11:47 AM

Geez-us Bert, man reading this Post was similar to riding a roller coaster...I almost have to go to the head clean things up a bit. This is a clear reason why training is so important. Thanks Patriot. Stay safe.

Posted by: Joe | May 22, 2006 11:55 AM

Sounds just like the bad old days in Vietnam, with lies piled on lies. How'd we get into this mess, any way?

Posted by: Max Edison | May 22, 2006 12:47 PM

Bert,

Are there any PAR approaches in Iraq? I am still sitting here in disbelief that command allowed you to launch into the conditions you described.

Posted by: Seth | May 22, 2006 12:57 PM

Makes me mad that there is not more effort made to provide proper weather reports.

Posted by: Carla | May 22, 2006 12:59 PM

Regardless of who is SECDEF, the DoD were and are habitual liars.....all the way down the line. But since the "insurgency is on its last throes" it should all soon be over, or?

Posted by: FIGMO | May 22, 2006 01:14 PM

Bert,

Thanks for allowing me to truly understand what my brother went through for a year over there. I'm happy to say he's back in the U.S. and currently on his honeymoon! Stay safe and know your sacrifice isn't forgotten.

Posted by: aviator's sister | May 22, 2006 01:33 PM

Bert,

This is absolutely horrendous. It is one thing to ask pilots to fly in dangerous conditions. It is quite another thing to lie to them. At least if they were telling you the truth you would have some idea of what you were taking on. Having pilots go into this without knowing is beyond stupid.

As I was reading your account I kept thinking of the Soviets who kept inaccurate maps for security reasons. As a result, did not know how to get around their own country.

Posted by: Robin | May 22, 2006 01:45 PM

I thought we were all encouraged to support our troops. You would think the government would lead the way by not trying to kill them.

Posted by: adam | May 22, 2006 02:51 PM

For what it's worth, I sincerely doubt that the pilots were lied to. I think it is much more likely that there were changes in the weather from the forecast, and there was a combination of bureaucracy and perhaps some laziness in looking into the changes. The forecasters I worked with in the Navy (I flew navy helos for 20 years) took their job as seriously as we took ours. And if there was a mishap that involved deliberately inaccurate briefings, there would be massive amounts of official retribution for those involved. It sounds to me like the forecasting units out there need to change the frequency of their forecasts, as the weather there is (from what I've read) very volatile. And if the powers-that-be think that the nature of the mission warrants it, they can waive the weather limitations.

Posted by: exhelodrvr | May 22, 2006 03:14 PM

Perhaps the weather people need a window in their tent so they can see what is actually happening out there.

Posted by: Jean | May 22, 2006 03:33 PM

I was a controller in Baghdad recently and we rarely relied on the wx services provided. I don't understand why they didn't solicit pireps. That's just weird.

Posted by: Sarai | May 22, 2006 03:54 PM

Sarai, there's a new team in charge over here, and they have their own ways of doing everything. Some things make more sense, some make less sense, most are still about as half-@@@ed as they've always been (just with different details).

It still makes you want to go stand on somebody's desk while you explain to them in words of one syllable or less why letting their sloppiness get you killed is *not* in the national interest.

Posted by: wlc over at Victory | May 22, 2006 04:47 PM

We're turning the corner on bad weather. Bad weather in Iraq is now just down to some dead-ender thunderstorms.

Of course, if our troops weren't over there for a goddamn lie made by the Protofascist pigs of the GOP, they wouldn't have had to ride through that thunderstorm.

But hey! ANything to prolong war for the rightwing hate brigade. Support Bush, torture muslims because some general said so, and try not to come back in a plastic bag.

Posted by: GoatBasket | May 22, 2006 04:50 PM

I guess weather "Intelligence" are no better than WMD ones.

Posted by: Mario | May 22, 2006 04:56 PM

GoatBasket

Since you think everyone is a neofascist liar, remember back in 1994 oh we are only going to be in the balkans for one year... we are still in bosnia and kosovo.

Posted by: not a fobbit | May 22, 2006 05:30 PM

oh follow up thought... Did we have any more justification for allied force and bombing serbia, than going to Iraq?

Posted by: not a fobbit | May 22, 2006 05:31 PM

Max Edison asked:

> Sounds just like the bad old days in Vietnam, with lies piled on lies. How'd we get into this mess, any way?

Lies, of course.

Posted by: B2O | May 22, 2006 05:39 PM

Somebody give the weather guys a new weather rock-- just hang it outside and check it-- if its wet its rainiing; if its white its snowing and if its moving the wind is blowing.
Mr Stovel glad you got back down safely, a tribute to your training and instincts. As always our prayers are for you and all of our troops in harms way.

Posted by: Bill j` | May 22, 2006 05:40 PM

Yes we did have reason to go into Serbia, we intervened to prevent a Genocide that was already in progress and threatening to destabilize the region. Also the force is NATO and fairly solidly international.

Iraq was/is none of these things. I think that it could have been done properly, and I think it could have been beneficial to the region. It was not done right and it hasn't been.

That said, we need to find a real solution, not the straw men so often put out in the chats here

Posted by: Remember Sarajevo? | May 22, 2006 05:53 PM

Sorry, that first sentence should read "genocide. A genocide"

And I'm also glad you're safe and thanks for reporting. It's good to hear

Posted by: Remember Sarajevo? | May 22, 2006 05:55 PM

Hey Bert, maybe you should spend more of your time fighting and less of your time watching the clouds. I for one support the mission in Iraq but expect you all to make good on your duty to protect us. I, frankly speaking, don't feel very safe over here in the U.S.. Ever since the campaign has ground to a halt, I can't help but feeling a growing sense of unease. If you guys aren't wackin potzes on a daily basis I go to work with a furrowed brow and concern for my family. I can assure you, that I am spending much of my energy petitioning Congress to expidite this war and reprimanding cowards and turncoats in the Democratic party who would willingly betray the United States, her military and her interests out of the need to survive, God knows the Democratic party is on the ropes. I think your mission needs to be re-qued and you need to start dealing with the insurgents in Iraq. The Iraqis can't do it, you must. If you don't then maybe we can switch places and maybe you can write letters to Congress instead. Also, I think its unfortunate you chose to blog for the Washington Post, they are a joke within a joke.

Thank you very much

pT

Posted by: pT | May 22, 2006 06:41 PM

Something doesn't make sense here. Nothing gets an operational commander in more trouble than knowingly sending a flight into adverse weather. Something about this whole blog smells like s**t.

Posted by: John Stevenson | May 22, 2006 06:41 PM

pT-

WOW! Your blog entry is impressive. Let me follow up by saying I'm not sure which is worse: your utter ignorance of the realities of this war or your amazingly poor sense of humor. Buddy, take your superior intellect/sense of humor and blog elsewhere.

Bert, I work for the Army here in DC and routinely talk to Soldiers who have returned from Iraq/Afghanistan. The apparent sad reality is stuff will always happen and you can only do the best you can under such trying conditions, which you already now. That said, just because something like this happens doesn't make it right. Stay safe.

Posted by: RS | May 22, 2006 07:14 PM

Bert and the rest of A Co.

I am so glad that you guys are ok! That was the most intense story I think I have read here! You guys have the know-how and the ability to come through on some of the worst situations! Hang in there and if the weather is too bad by your calculations....rethink the mission! Take care! Be safe! We love and miss you all! You all remain in our thoughts and prayers!!!

Come home safe!

Posted by: av8ryf | May 22, 2006 07:59 PM

This is the very first time I have sat in on this blog. What I've missed is a great one with all of the humor, travails, frights and unconcerned laziness of those who pretend their job isn't important, just as in life in any other career. The best are terrific and the rest are just marking time. I will certainly be back. This is an important story you are letting us view. Thank you and I think of the safety of everyone of our military men and women away from home in theaters of war.

Posted by: MarchDancer | May 22, 2006 08:23 PM

C17 pilot Mom - You didn't say what you were flying. Sometimes I don't want to know when my son is over there cuz I know I would worry. Take care and if you ever run into Paul Pearson, tell him his mom says Hi!

Posted by: Paula C | May 22, 2006 08:40 PM

Bert,

You just proved that your level head, trainingg, teamwork and bravery got you through a tough situation. You made it!! That is the reason you are there and why we think you, and those with you, are our heroes. Thank you for your honesty and updates. We miss you guys and pray everyday for your safety.

Stay alert, stay safe and stay out of that bad weather when you can and ALWAYS follow your instincts.

Posted by: Cali-Girl | May 22, 2006 08:44 PM

I led weather support for 2/224 sometimes during UTA and definitely at AT at Ft AP Hill and at Ft Pickett when I served with the VaANG. As a weather officer, I told it like it is, or like I thought it was going to be, and what the risks were. Perhaps the battalion staff didn't want to hear that wind shear would cancel their drop or that a googles mission just wouldn't work at night, but crew safety was paramount. Of course I had crews fly into tornadoes when I said not a good idea but I don't like the sound of the lies you're being told. You can't make a decision not to fly if you're being given a sunny forecast. You and your commanders can decide the mission requires you to launch if you're given the straight facts. Hopefully you'll get a straight story.

Good luck!!!

Posted by: cfd | May 22, 2006 09:57 PM

You mention a weather radar you checked on the internet. Please clarify. I've also never known a weather officer to start a briefing with "This is a lie ..." Much of this story sounds fishy to me. And yes, I have been there ... doing weather support.

Posted by: kdp | May 22, 2006 10:32 PM

Hey RS how would you like a fistful of knuckles!?

Posted by: pT | May 23, 2006 12:47 AM

Remember Sarajevo,
You need to go tell the Kurds that what happened to the 5,000 of there fellow Kurds it was not genocide, or how about telling all those families who had loved ones in the mass graves it was not genocide. Go tell the Shiites that Hussein administration did not commit genocide against any of them. So Clinton was justified to go into Bosnia to prevent genocide but Bush is not justified to go into Iraq to prevent the same thing. What was the treat Bosnia posed to the United States? I am sick of hearing Iraq posed no treat to the US. If it was only to free the Iraq people from a butcher and enjoy the liberty to walk down the street it is worth it. Your thought process is warped. Both Clint and Bush where justified in there actions. They went about it differently but is not the cause the same. They both stopped butchers. Just to let you know we are not totally out of Bosnia yet either. It also took a while to stabilize Bosnia Herzegovina. And what is up with all of the screen names. I can understand the military personnel not putting there names on here because of National Security purposes. The rest of you should have some guts and come out of the closet. Oh forgive me that would take a backbone and you might have to face WFO2 Stover one day and you would not be able to look him in the eye because of all of the garbage you flung at him. The reason the terrorist even attacked the United States is because Americans have lost their backbone. Warrant keep up the outstanding job and thank you very much for giving up some much to protect all of our freedom.

Posted by: Ron Breeden | May 23, 2006 04:45 AM

Hey ,pt

...instead of cowering as you shuffle to work (writing letters to your corrupt congressfolk), why dont you do the manly thing and enlist.

threatening to punch someone in the face on a blog is surely one of the most pathetic and cowardly posts i've seen from a war-lover on this blog.

you'd make a fine US President, tho

Posted by: dave | May 23, 2006 09:25 AM

To my AD "crusty old 4" colleague: "RIGHT ON" for your comment to A Hole Ed Vast. There ain't nothing like a dust-up on short final, raises the "pucker factor" REAL HIGH. Keep up the good lookin' out for a young Warrant.

God Bless, and good flying.

Posted by: CW4 (Avn) Ret, USAR (Red Hat) | May 23, 2006 11:29 AM

OK, I am glad I read this AFTER my husband took a "field trip" from AA to TQ last week! I am glad you all made it safely....

Posted by: msblondie | May 23, 2006 11:54 AM

A few comments about previous articles and postings. It wasn't a cartoon which had the comment "we have met the enemy and he is us!" it was Pogo the commic strip. Second, 40 years ago when I took the weather section of my ground school, we had a FSS weatherman give it. He informed us that contray to popular belief, "weather forcasters are correct 85% of the time - - - on 3% of the days." Having experienced a few extreme pucker factors myself, I empathize. I thank you and all your fellows for all that you are doing and continue to do. Please come home safely. If you are still then, when my son arrives, take good care of him. Thanks.

Posted by: Dad of Aviator in Training | May 23, 2006 04:01 PM

To: John Stevenson

It is fact, I was lead on a mission one night, no illumination with a visability forecast of 3 to 5 mile dust and haze. Tower was reporting 5 miles and we launched. We got to the test fire area and I could not see our targets, they were 1.5 kilometers away, I turned back for the airfield and could not see it until I was 1.8 miles out. I gave tower a PIREP and at the same time a section of 53's turned around and reported 2 miles. That night tower never reported less than 5 miles even though they recieved several pireps reporting less. That same evening I was asked(pressured) 3 times if I would attempt to launch based on what tower was reporting and because I could not cancel a mission. My answer was " I am on weather hold" and I stayed on hold the rest of the night. The biggest thing is that I lived to fly another day, and so did everyone else. So please do not say it sounds like !@#$, it happenes here all the time.

Posted by: CW4 in Bert's Unit | May 24, 2006 09:01 AM

Maybe they should put the Weather Channel on Armed Forces TV?

Funny, but thousands of civilian commercial flights take off and land in lousy weather every month and there is never any incident. But leave it to the military to screw up elementary avionics. This is so sad, on too many levels.

Of course, why is Bert & Co. even in the air? Do the insurgents have their own air force?

More interesting, however, is the writing style of this blog -- it pinballs all over the place (this is, admittedly, one of the better postings in regard to the construction of sentences). If Bert ever bothers to answer any of these postings, it might be interesting to know who is "helping" him write this stuff.

Posted by: E. Etage | May 24, 2006 09:13 AM

You idiot - Bert is not a reporter with the Post so give him some slack with his "construction of sentences". Since he had to go to Iraq with his unit, he chose to post blogs about what he is going through. Good God - this is interesting stuff no matter in what format it is written! Go Bert, stay safe, you and the rest are in my prayers!

Someone out there

Posted by: | May 24, 2006 09:47 AM

When I flew for Stategic Air Command some 40 years ago we had weather minimums, but they were always waved for "Higher Headquarters Missions". When I flew for a Major Airline for over 30 years, we always launched. We may take a delay for weather to move, but we always went eventually. The only good weather observer is the pilot looking out thru the windscreen!, or watching his radar. Take it too 'em young WO-2 Stover. God speed.

Posted by: JStiegel | May 24, 2006 11:35 AM

E Etage,
You are showing a complete lack of understanding of the differences between commercial and military aviation, specifically rotary wing (helicopter) military aviation. Airliners take off from runways, under the control of air traffic controllers, fly "their mission" up at altitude, again, under the control of the air traffic control system, and then land on runways, again, under air traffic control. For the type of missions described by the warrant officer, none of that applies.

Posted by: exhelodrvr | May 24, 2006 05:58 PM

Roger that comment by exhelodrvr. Army Aviation supports the ground commander, so the lack of an insurgent air force is not real relevant (you moron). The mission and challenges are totally different from fixed wing operations. Almost all operations there are to smaller, helicopter only LZ's. Trust me when I say that the reporting provided by Mr Stover is not the slightest bit fishy. I can't begin to tell you how many times the same thing happened to me while flying in that AO. That is all I can really say. The rotary wing safety record is so good only from the efforts of crew and support personell. They are the best. To E.Etage, please evaluate the following sentence. Your are an ignorant, blithering idiot. How is that for a sentence? The only thing pinballing around here is your tiny brain. Bert gets no help or editorial review for the blog. He will never answer a response, it is not his intent to do so. He does read them though. Yours truly,

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 24, 2006 07:16 PM

Just don't evaluate the spelling, oops

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 24, 2006 07:25 PM

I miss Che. But my aim is getting better.

Posted by: CW4 H | May 24, 2006 08:19 PM

E. Etage asks, "Of course, why is Bert & Co. even in the air? Do the insurgents have their own air force?"

If you actually read what Bert wrote you would know why he was in the air, "cargo drop and pickup in Baghdad" Before you make your stupid, degrading comments, read what has been written. It still won't make any sense to the rest of us but at least you won't have to ask stupid questions and even more stupid comments.

Posted by: Cali-Girl | May 24, 2006 09:13 PM

A group of recruiters attempted to get me to join the military several decades ago. I would have been a lieutenant chaplain, had I signed up. Ah, some aspects of the job appealed to me given that I could encourage and pray for the youngsters who served this country. But some aspects did not!

One of my peers accepted the job. Recently, he was counseling a serviceman who was deeply distraught over the possibility of killing people in Iraq. My peer told him, as he demonstrated to us how to he should do it, "just kill 'em fast", so that they won't suffer.

First, props to all of those chaplains who have taken on the job of encouraging our servicmen and women. Having said that, I still made the right decision for me, but I will keep praying for all of you young folks (on both sides) who have been cast into this unnecessary conflict! There was another way to resolve this matter. Perhaps we will avoid the same in the future. Be safe Mr. Stover.

The Rev,

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 25, 2006 09:34 AM

They arrested Che! (It turns out he's a Baltimore cop) (-:


Cop Accused In Rim Theft Due In Court
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
WBAL Radio and The Associated Press

The Baltimore police officer accused of stealing tires and rims from a car being held in an investigation is due for arraignment Wednesday.

Prosecutors say that 35 year old Che Christopher Jackson of Randallstown was indicted late last month on one count of felony theft.

The indictment says that a Cadillac Deville seized as part of an investigation of a shooting on Brehms Lane was held at the Northeastern District last January. The car had 20 inch Rox Fossill rims and Wanli tires.

The grand jury and prosecutors believe that sometime over the next two days, Jackson took the tires and rims from the original car and had them placed on his own Cadillac Deville.

If he is convicted, Jackson could be hit with up to 15 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000.

Posted by: che spelled backwards is ehc | May 25, 2006 10:44 AM

Bert... I was in that cockpit with you as you described the waves of relief you felt once you were down. Great story, and excellent story telling!

And regarding pT's comment? This has to be a plant... a leftie whacko pretending to be a rightie whacko. The whole comment was goofy and more overdone than the egg on my Egg McMuffin. WAAAAY over the top.

Posted by: ElkGrover | May 25, 2006 01:20 PM

Elkgrover i think you may be correct... i confess i fell for the "fistful of knuckles" thing.

But dont rule out a rightie whacko 'being' a rightie whacko... they tend to get worked into a lather and make threats much more so than the leftie kind

Posted by: dave | May 25, 2006 01:37 PM

I have a suggestion: why don't we limit whacko identification to "Whacko, 1 Each" without trying to determine whether they're left, right or high-diddle-diddle?

Posted by: wlc over at Victory | May 25, 2006 04:21 PM

I was just wondering if other flying units in your area have reported the same problems?

Posted by: | May 26, 2006 09:59 AM

This blog will no doubt start a sh*t storm, and believe me it has begun on our end. It seems that no one understands that this blog is not meant to slam anyone.This blog is just an account of our experiences. They are not fictional accounts, Bert does not sit around and make this stuff up. As I mentioned in a post above about a simular flight. A section of Marine 53's reported the same visability, tower would not change their forcast.So I would say the answer is yes, yes some units experience the same thing. Call it what you will, command pressure, lack of weather reporting equipment or what ever. Shame on anyone who folds to pressure and shame on anyone who applies it, the lowest Pvt. is taught from the beginning what is right and what is wrong and must be ready to stand accountable for his or her actions. I personally had a conversation with the Commander of an out going unit,his advice to me has stuck with me from the beginning. If I post it here, it will no doubt ruffle some feathers,lets just say I have followed his advice and it works for me. Here in Iraq young men and women rely on me to get them from "A to B",safely. I owe it to them and their families to do just that.

Posted by: CW4 in Bert's unit | May 26, 2006 01:37 PM

To the writer of this "BLOG" It never ends, you have the enlisted that don't like to be called sir, and respond with i work for a living, then you have the CWO's that were prior enlisted and wanted a good retirement and crossed over. The thing that gets me is we are all on the same team here. You call out the weather attachments that are there for you! You wear NVG's that everyone knows if they have ever worn before, if you see light or in your case lightning then it will appear closer then it actually is. Again, being a pilot or a back seat pilot as you put it, you were unable to see the lightning with your eyes, but you also know the HABOOB scenario, well buddy, that is what happened. Those so called storms that you thought were 40 NM or less colapsed and you got what is called an outflow, which will pick up that dust and move it from A to B. But to sit there and bash the people that give you daily briefs and you work with on a daily basis is purely unprofessional, and i think that you should have consulted someone prior to submitting your quote unquote STATEMENT. It sounds to me that could have saved you the trouble of any investigation that could follow for your actions, not to mention the many sorties that you talked about and secured locations of bases. If it were up to me i would have your wings taken and put you though survival school again and let the instructors teach you about the code of silience.

Weather BUG out!

Posted by: weather bug | May 27, 2006 05:13 PM

ALL PILOTS READ THIS:

Weather bug hit it just right. There is little to no pressure to give crews go weather when its close. In fact, we are pushed so hard in the other direction, that alot of flights are cancelled because it's close and doesn't happen. When this occurs, we get crap for having them miss a mission. If we let them launch and they run into mission limiting weather, we get even more crap.

The life of a weather forecaster is well described as a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

Also remember that all those complaints of bad reports from tower on weather conditions are made by ignorant people. If you want a weather update to any briefing, ASK THE FORECASTER, NOT THE TOWER! All the tower will give you is the hourly observation. and if it's near the top of the hour, that ob can be almost an hour old. Also, this ob is for that exact moment in time and only over the airfield. infact, only over the observer. If it's raining near them but not on them, it's not raining. If they don't see lightning, there is no lightning in that ob.

Another thing, Bert, where are you getting this "radar" shot? There are only a couple in theater and none in the area you speak of. You may have looked at a satelite shot. And not being very familir with it or not understanding the principals of reading where things are and where they are moving, you cannot effectively forecast the conditions.

Pilots, do not "back seat forecast" we are trained and will advise you of impending weather to the highest extent of our ability. Also, if you have info on something that we are unable to see, TELL US! We can only observe what we see and what others can see. If you see a wall of dust, tell us and we'll foreward that to everyone that needs to know. You are our extended observers in this data sparse area. This does not, however, allow you to second guess our forecasts. You would have been fine if not for that outflow that picked up dust. For your information, EVERY THUNDERSTOR/ SHOWER/ OR EVER CUMULUS CLOUD HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE THAT KIND OF DUST EVENT. If we told you that there would be one mile vis with dust every flight, would you like that?

This kind of thing really urks a Weather person.

Posted by: Weather man in Iraq | May 27, 2006 06:17 PM

sir, after reading your blog comment and picking my jaw up from the floor i'm taking a second to tell you how disappointing your opinion, not fact, but opinion about weather forecasters is to me. i'm on my second tour out here forecasting the weather for an army division. i take pride in what i do and in how i do it. i have been trained well in how to do my job in various environments. forecasting mother nature is not an easy task. i have never heard of anyone intentionally lieing on a weather brief to harm the lives of our fellow soldier out here with us. would you like to discuss the numerous dumb things that come from pilots mouths? i'm just happy to see one can type so much and better yet know his east from west. yes you all are that stupid too! i've flown on many different types of aircrafts and never have i ever said i think that pilot wants to kill me. i know you all intentionally try to make people throw up on your flights. are we at war with iraq or at war with each other here? i also know that when we give you unfavorable flying conditions that pilots will either call around, also known as "shopping for weather" until they get the conditons that allow them to take off, or will continuously harass the weather people until you get the conditions you need to take off. another thing. when you're flying around out here it's not training or for fun. you're flying for a purpose. either to haul personnel or equiptment but it's to make a mission happen. so how 'bout you stap on some balls and get the job done. you do what you're here to do and i'll do what i'm here to do. guess what! there are people out here dieing and it's not the weather forecasters fault!

Posted by: pridefull | May 27, 2006 10:16 PM

As a USAF spouse of one in Weather that deals (you know getting the product ready for you guys) with forecasting in that theater now and since the No-Fly Zone era, MISTER. Even as only a spouse of a weather forecaster, your reporting reeks like sh*t. I have never in th 15 years of going to Weather Stations see the weatherman fold under the pressure by Commanders or Pilots. Pilots constantly pressure the weather guys so they can "fly". Just to mention my Father was a Huey pilot in Nam, then an Emergency Flight pilot and now doing contract flying at the Gulf Coast. Let me tell you that when my Father and Husband get together and in good fun take jabs at each other as a former Army pilot and a Current USAF WX-man. It is always the same banter from my Dad, "Pilots know more than the Weather guys about Weather......." to paraphase. What do you flyboys get, a week of weather training and in your case and a few others in "How to be an arrogant idiotic ass.", etc. Then, obviously you took a civilian course in "How to properly don tin foil on ones head". Too bad you couldn't post the transcript of the entire pre-flight briefing...hey, you know just make one up as you already seemingly did. Which, by the way, is classified. "This is a lie......". No matter if you, I or your readers think it is or is not a lie, even just that snippet is considered leaking classified information! Looking forward to JAG tagging you and I will applaud when they get you for it. So from this "Weather Geek's" (an endearment) wife. The guy that comes home after every shift and logs on to the computer to make sure he nailed the product he put out, who believes that his job is of the utmost importance for you! You, who are a probable liar, conspiracy theorist (K.I.S.S. is the best way of thinking, pal...my apologies for believing you needed the easier understanding of the abbreviation for Occam's Razor! I am, also kicking myself for not buying Alcoa stock I could have made a fortune off you and your ilk), and let's face it a twit! I think I need to run along and email and fwd this article to some Weather people, JAG and a few Senators, etc....Obviously, I like to write! Then after that, I will go watch AFN...making sure to get out the Reynolds Wrap out so not to be brainwashed by the commercials! Lastly, I will admit that weather is not an exact science, but our weather people are pretty damn good. Yet, this weather tale of yours is seeming just that, a TALE.

Posted by: Allyson | May 28, 2006 02:20 AM

I am near the top of the "food chain" as far as weather forecasters in Iraq. I have been doing this job for a very long time (maybe even nearly as long as CW2 Stover has been alive). I will not try to defend the weather forecasters or flame the pilots. This is a difficult place to forecast, for those in the states, do not try to compare the weather resources and capabilities there to what we have here, its not even close. I can say without hesitation that I have never lied about a forecast, I have been wrong though. I have never been pressured to lie or the change my forecast so that the mission could go. In fact, quite the opposite, I have been repeatedly told to brief the weather as we see it, if its bad, its bad. These words straight from aviation brigade commanders who are going to have to answer to ground brigade commanders and the division commander. CW2 Stover, I am glad your training paid off, you and your fellow crews obviously know your IMC procedures. I would suggest that you, and any other military pilot that reads this, get with your weather folks and discuss what you see when you're out flying. Come back and give them the follow up feedback they need to make corrections to the forecast and briefing process. Make suggestions on how all agencies, weather, ATC, and your flight operations folks can develop procdures to get the information to you faster and more accurate. Our job is to help you accomplish your mission, safely. A good article, also by a pilot, if you are interested, link below.

http://www.flyingmag.com/article.asp?section_id=13&article_id=554&print_page=y

RedGrey62

Posted by: RedGrey62 | May 28, 2006 02:57 AM

Upon reading your article my colleagues and I came across many points of contention regarding your view of weather personnel in the CENTCOM theater. Weather Man In Iraq gave a peerless description of how things work in the world of weather observation in the fact that you need to ask the observer, not the tower. Maybe if you would actually take the time to properly read through your AF Form 175-1, you would know the correct frequency to contact the weather station. As a forecaster for both the OIF and OEF Theaters of Operation, I can tell you that your viewpoint on observers taking observation above the airfield minimums is quite untrue. Observers frequently take observations that bust the ceiling/visibility criteria outlined in our Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts. Tell me something else, if our forecast are so "flawed" as you put it, then why are we receiving e-mails from our commander praising our 93% forecast accuracy rate for severe weather during the months of April and May??? Also, if you're such the expert on weather, tell me how many decibels are indicative of thunderstorms on an Ellason Weather Radar that is commonly used in the Iraqi theater. If you saw these purported thunderstorms on the radar and your instincts were telling you that inclement weather was imminent, why didn't you exercise some operational risk management and keep your birds on the ground instead of risking the lives of your men. Why don't you consult your S2 or briefing officer on their blatant unprofessionalism by calling the official weather forecast "lies". The thought that weather personnel would intentionally lie to keep birds in the air is absurd. Who do you think the finger gets pointed at first whenever an aircraft goes down? Who do you think gets to stand tall before the base commander whenever there is a mishap? Lets get back to the point of where you decided to fly against your better judgement, even though you knew their were thunderstorms in the area. Can you tell me how far away lightning can be detected with the naked eye? I can assure that I've seen lightning at least 50 miles away while standing at the surface. I know for a fact what the flight level is for helo missions, did you ever consider that you have a better view in the helicopter than you do at the surface, thus extending the range of visibility. Did you also consider that you NVG's are extremely sensitive to illumination and ambient light, extending the range at which lightning can be seen with an unobstructed view over the desert? How do you now how far away the lightning is from your point of reference? Are you telling me that just because your a pilot that your eyes are calibrated to a point that is better than the precision instruments that are located at the airfield? In one of your previous blogs you mentioned that your own helicopter rotors often kick up dust, especially when your at low flight-levels that are frequented by other helicopters. Did you ever consider this may be a cause to your plight or is that beyond your cognitive abilites? I also find it disturbing that you were joking with your fellow pilot in the cockpit that your weather reports were being witheld from other aircrews. I can assure you that there is a system in which all pilot reports are disseminated to all available weather personnel to view and to use to tailor the forecasts accordingly. There are also many discrepancies in your blog in which you listed weather conditions along your flight route. Anybody with half-of-a-brain knows that weather systems generally move from west-to-east across the Northern Hemisphere. So why would you think that the weather was behind you over Baghdad, clearly being to your east? I also like how his spelling and grammar was questioned by others in previous comments, yet he was defended just because he was in Iraq. Does this give him a carte blanche to butcher the English language? As a Warrant Officer in the United States Army and as a professional, you should at least be able to expect elementary grammar and spelling. I also know that helicopter pilots like to "shop" for weather, asking every agency they can until they get the weather report that allows them to fly, even after initially being briefed on bad weather conditions in their route. I also find it amusing that other members of Bert's unit will defend his comments and assure us that he reads the opinions left on this blog, yet he doesn't answer them, and then accuse others of being cowards. Why doesn't Bert "man-up" and accept responsibility for his comments as well as his bad decision-making abilities?

Posted by: Spectre?????? | May 28, 2006 10:18 AM

what a joke. we in the air force weather career do not make up lies nor brief pilots on bs weather just to get them off the ground. the entire story was hogwash fiction and a complete lie. what a crock of BS

Posted by: none ya | May 28, 2006 10:38 AM

hey stover-DON'T YOU EVER CALL MY BROTHER A LIAR AGAIN,or i swear to GOD i will come over there! My bro is one of the BEST weather men out there-and they all do a magnificent job. if you were an ACTUAL pilot, you would've known to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. crackhead.

Posted by: marinesista | May 28, 2006 07:17 PM

Sensationalized garbage.

I hear Michael Bay is looking for a new script.

Posted by: Bloody Rids | May 29, 2006 04:56 PM

Memorial Day - Thank you to all those soldiers who died defending our country and those who risk their lives daily so that we can live the life we do.

Thank you!

Posted by: Cali-Girl | May 29, 2006 08:38 PM

For some reason, there is a high level of arrogance laced with an irrational sense of immortality among some pilots. I know, because my dad was one*. You're apparently among that sorry group, Bert. You want to fly and show off your skills so badly you're willing to lay the lives of your passengers on the line to do so. I am amazed that your commanding officers don't have ultimate authority on when you can and cannot fly, especially because it is quite apparent that you are not mature or intelligent enough to evaluate the information available and make those kinds of life or death decisions. The people who put the accurate information out told you not to fly. You went looking for something that told you what you wanted to hear, and then you went out of your way to disparage the guys who told you not to fly. NOW, HAVING BEEN THROUGH WHAT THEY TOLD YOU WOULD BE THERE, YOU KNOW THAT THEY WERE RIGHT. Is that how you treat people ON YOUR OWN SIDE?

*He was an extraordinary pilot, and pilot instructor. He was also arrogant, just like you. He is dead. At 32, airplane crash.

Note to the Arab insurgents monitoring this liberal online rag. This is called democracy, where jerks are able to post testamonies to their own incompetence, leak military information to the other side, and collect the comments of everyone from complete idiots who use the forum for their own political views to people who finally throw in the towel and submit factual information disputing the original b.s. You can't do this in your country, because you serve a bunch of dictatorial murderers who convince their own people to go out and kill innocent civilians. Your bosses are no better than Hussein. And don't lean on religion to prop up your argument. Your cause isn't in the Koran. I looked it up. All this b.s. jihad crap is purely feudal Arabic custom.

By the way, in case you were planning to actually come to the US: I think it is sporting to mention that a significant number of us (unlike the civilians in your own country) own our own weapons. Standard hunting equipment, semi-automatic stuff, whatever. We have a lot of them, and you will never know which ones of us do. Not only that, but we have the amazing ability to put aside differences of opinion and form a cohesive unit to fight a common enemy, which would be you. If you don't know where to NOT start, I would suggest that you avoid Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, definitely Arizona, and Idaho. There may be other states, but I can speak to these.

Bert, you should be losing your wings soon. I wrote my congressman.

Note to Dave: As for Bert making a fine president: we've already had one liar in the White House, and we don't need his wife, either.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | May 29, 2006 08:51 PM

To clarify last comment: reference is to the previous president--and the wife/senator that would be president.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | May 29, 2006 11:27 PM

Gents and ladies from Weatherfolk United,
Please take a moment to untwist your knickers and then reread Mr. Stover's commentary with a less defensive eye (RedGrey62, you're excused from the exercise).
Aside from his expressing a (very strong) susupicion that there is undue command influence on the weather forecast, I don't any significant maligning of weather forecasters in Iraq. Mr. Stover is doing a fairly credible job of describing wartime operations in Iraq from the decidedly limited viewpoint of a junior chopper pilot. He is not a professional journalist, and he seems to call them like he sees them.

For example, I would lay odds that S2 *did* present the weather report in exactly the unprofessional manner Mr. Stover laid out. However, the S2 was the one making the actual accusation, Not CW2 Stover. As an aside, I would also wager that by now the same S2 has probably endured some significant command guidance about when and how to express criticism of intel and orders, almost certainly as a result of being a featured player in this posting.

Similarly, I am not sure whether "controlling agency" is the current mil-speak for air traffic control (or the airfield tower), but CW2 Stover's narrative makes it clear that it is the ATC or tower which is blowing off the PIREPs, not necessarily the in-theater weather forecasters.

Lastly, whatever happened to polite society? We've got mothers screaming insults and threatening disciplinary action, sisters threatening to "come over" and perpetrate who-knows-what as a threat, a spectre inserting criticism of Mr. Stover's writing ability in a candidate for the longest run-on paragraph of the month, and Alyson attempting to reclassify material which almost certainly was not classified to start with (NOTE TO Allyson: quite aside from the fact that I have yet to see anybody attempt to classify a tactical weather forecast, most of the the operational information handed out prior to an operation defaults to becoming sensitive but unclassified when the operation is over and the information is no longer timely) (you *did* notice the 12-day lag between when Mr. Stover wrote this and when it was actually published, didn't you?).

In other words, folks, try to read this as one experience rather than convert it into a political or military diatribe. Mr. Stover is reporting his observations. If you don't think that they apply to your loved ones, don't put on that shoe and loudly proclaim that it fits but you don't like it.

Posted by: wlc (no longer at Victory) | May 30, 2006 02:04 AM

By the way, Bert, I haven't yet gotten around to hoisting that cold one for you and the rest of 224. Fort Bliss on a holiday weeekend gives new meaning to "dead", and I've also been attempting to overcome a conspiracy between United and the TSA which separated me from all the nifty TA/50 I'm supposed to turn in tomorrow.

But today is not the day to hoist one in your memory anyway. Today is for those of our profession who answered the call of duty and did not return. You and the rest of the 224th are under orders to qualify for remembrance on Veteran's Day, along with all the rest of us who are still breathing.

Posted by: wlc (no longer at Victory) | May 30, 2006 02:10 AM

In defense of all at "Weatherfolk United", I will be the first to submit a rebuttal. Let me first of all say I cannot defend those who convey threats to Bert, I am more interested in challenging the points he made in his blog in hope of creating a dialogue to get to the root of the "Lies" that us weatherfolk provide.

Having dealt with the 2-224 first hand, myself and others in our unit feel that this does apply. First of all WLC, if you would reference the last sentence of paragraph two of Bert's blog, you would clearly see that pilots commonly refer to the forecasts as "Lies". "Another Weather Mom" put it just right with "The people who put the accurate information out told you not to fly. You went looking for something that told you what you wanted to hear, and then you went out of your way to disparage the guys who told you not to fly." And this is an accurate statement I can attest, to what we commonly refer to as "shopping for weather". If the majority of the information I am entrusted with was not classified, I would gladly provide several examples of which pilots ignored weather guidance and decided to fly anyway.

Contrary to your belief that you saw no significant maligning of the weather forecasters, the term "Lies" would usually imply that the people who provided you with the information are "liars". Yet here we have yet another person defending Bert's comments without an actual reply from the man who wrote the comments. My intent is not to start a firestorm of insults or diatribes, I want to hear from the man who made the comments to get some clarity and elaboration upon the story.

Posted by: Spectre | May 30, 2006 12:40 PM

What a moron.... I have worked both AF and Army weather and have lost count of the times I have been yelled at by a pilot because the weather was not condusive (sp) to his flying. When I was an observer I had a 3 star Army general scream at me over the PMSV when I told the pilot I wouldn't reccomend him taking off because there were TSTMS alquads. The general got on the PMSV and started screaming at me wanting to know "by what authority did I have to ground hi aircraft"?? The truth be told I DIDN'T have the authority, but the CG ltng that was striking all around the blackhawk he was riding in was enough authority... But yet HE was a pilot, so HE knew best. That is why there are MVFR/IFR rules set forth and that is why you as a pilot should listen to the wx briefer NOT the tower. To repeat what one of my fellow wx bros have said - get an update on your -175-1 BY A FORECASTER. We at KBAD have one of our buddies over there and we all take insult in your posting on his behalf. Here he is giving you weather support 'cause the ARMY won't provide weather personel and there you are acting the fool by making yourself sound like some war hero by spouting lies. What could you not find anything else to embellish so you had to talk bad about your fellow servicemen? Shame on you sir, next time you need a weather report and you stop by the wx desk you might want to apologise. To our MSGT from KBAD, WE MISS YOU!!!

Posted by: KBAD | May 30, 2006 02:03 PM

What exactly is "shopping for weather"? We (retired Navy helo pilot) didn't have options on where to go for our weather briefs. We had to get them from the forecasters at the airfield we were flying from, or (if there were none at that field, as was the case for some outlying fields) from the forecasters at the nearest base. You can't call around to different bases to get different forecasts.
Please don't tar all pilots with this brush.

Posted by: exhelodrvr | May 30, 2006 03:33 PM

Bert, Great feedback on the quality of aviation weather support services your unit is being provided. As a recently retired Navy O-6 METOC officer (e.g., "weather guesser"), I winced when I read this installment of your blog. Clearly, at least in the instance you described, and for whatever reason, your weather support was inadequate. That's a problem that must be addressed. Having worked with military weather professionals at all levels and grades for over 26 years, I'm sure the problem has less to do with the quality of the weather personnel working to support you, and more to do with the technigues and procedures in place to make the military's aviation weather support organization more fully responsive to your needs. To that end, I've forwarded your blog entry to some of the most senior officers in the military weather food chain for their information, and action as appropriate. You may not have intended to raise such a fuss, but I felt compelled to act on your feedback. The risk you face each and every time you strap in should not be compounded by poor training, inadequate procedures, or faulty communications.

Posted by: fjg1800 | May 30, 2006 04:39 PM

fjg1800
1) I repeat: The information Bert needed was available days in advance.
2) The techniques and procedures are current. However, as has been suggested, if Bert had been a team player in the war, he would have taken an active and supportive part in the effort to add to the weather observations, particularly if it would help his fellow pilots.
3) "At the pre-flight briefing, the briefing officer started out with "This is a lie, but I will read it to you anyway," then read the official weather forecast. We requested more detailed forecasts, specifically asking about the activity we were seeing on the radar, and were told weather was not going to be a factor for our flight period."
Question: Is this standard professional language and behavior for briefing officers?
4) Just for the record, the concept of "lying" is a deliberate deception on the part of the liar, for a variety of reasons. Generally the liar has a particular reason for his deception. What reason can you give for why the weather provider would lie to you?
5) To wlc, regarding polite society and this blog: What part of polite society did this quote come from:
"The controlling agency over Baghdad gave a report that visibility remained "legal" and made no mention of lightning or impending storms. "Let's hurry up 'cause something is on its way and these bastards aren't admitting it," the pilot in command called over the radio to the other aircraft as we made our cargo drop and pickup in Baghdad."....and why do you think those "bastards" wouldn't admit to bad weather. It's not like they could hide it.

Finally, I have a right to my anger and indignation, because I am fully aware of the level of work the weather providers do every day, and I (and the rest of the Moms) resent the fact that Bert is maligning the work of our sons--and his fellow men in the service with obviously no understanding of their undertaking. Like your mechanics, techs and engineers, they work hard to give you what you need to do your mission. It is up to you to consult, support and defend the people who are trying to keep you in the air.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | May 30, 2006 11:18 PM

fjg1800
1) I repeat: The information Bert needed was available days in advance.
2) The techniques and procedures are current. However, as has been suggested, if Bert had been a team player in the war, he would have taken an active and supportive part in the effort to add to the weather observations, particularly if it would help his fellow pilots.
3) "At the pre-flight briefing, the briefing officer started out with "This is a lie, but I will read it to you anyway," then read the official weather forecast. We requested more detailed forecasts, specifically asking about the activity we were seeing on the radar, and were told weather was not going to be a factor for our flight period."
Question: Is this standard professional language and behavior for briefing officers?
4) Just for the record, the concept of "lying" is a deliberate deception on the part of the liar, for a variety of reasons. Generally the liar has a particular reason for his deception. What reason can you give for why the weather provider would lie to you?
5) To wlc, regarding polite society and this blog: From what part of polite society did this quote come:
"The controlling agency over Baghdad gave a report that visibility remained "legal" and made no mention of lightning or impending storms. "Let's hurry up 'cause something is on its way and these bastards aren't admitting it," the pilot in command called over the radio to the other aircraft as we made our cargo drop and pickup in Baghdad."
....and why do you think those "bastards" wouldn't admit to bad weather? It's not like they could hide it.

Finally, I have a right to my anger and indignation, because I am fully aware of the level of work the weather providers do every day, and I (and the rest of the Moms) resent the fact that Bert is maligning the work of our sons--and their fellow men and women in the service--with apparently no understanding of the volume and level of work they perform, and under what conditions. Bert, like your mechanics, techs and engineers, they work hard to give you what you need to do your mission. As a member of the American military armed services team, it is up to you to consult, support and defend the people who are trying to keep you in the air--or on the ground, when necessary.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | May 30, 2006 11:24 PM

Another Weather Mom,

No one appreciates the work that in-theater forecasters do greater than I. As I've said, I've been there, done that. Its a tough job, particularly when the data is sparse and the repercussions of being wrong can be fatal. However, there does appear to be a credibility problem with the weather support being provided to Bert's unit - clearly the unit doesn't have much faith in the information being provided to them. In my experience (which is considerable), product credibility issues usually arise from a systemic breakdown in communications somewhere between forecaster and pilot. That may occur during pre-flight briefing, in flight update, or post-flight debrief. It may also occur in a myriad of places - in the J-2 shop, in ATC, in the ready room, etc. Anyway, such breakdown in communications occurs frequently when forecasters are trying to support a diverse, often remote-located, rotational customer-base. The forecaster usually doesn't even become aware of that breakdown until he recieves feedback from the end user. Unfortunately, in this case the feedback came via a blog posted on the Washington Post web page rather than more traditional methods. Irregardless, of where and how that feedback is provided, its incumbent upon the forecasting agency (as the "supporting command") to adjust, or take steps to remind the customer of, existing procedures so that the problem is resolved. In fact, I viewed several of the above comments for in-country forecasters in that light; e.g., reminding Bert that the best way to get credible weather information is to bypass the air traffic controller and talk to the forecaster direct (via PMSV, landline, etc).

Providing weather support in military operations is complex business. Problems occur despite the best intentions and efforts of professional people. Fortunately, I suspect those same professionals have gotten well beyond the finger pointing, excuse making, and anger evident in so many of the comments above, and are now hard at work resolving the problem.

And finally, I'd like to offer some perspective. If anyone has a "right" to be angry and indignant, it's Bert and his fellow aviators, not you. After all, the consequences of an avoidable weather-related "mishap" (e.g.; crash!) are going to be much more immediate and personal to the crew onboard, and to their families back home, than to the forecaster in the weather office.

Posted by: fjg1800 | May 31, 2006 01:10 AM

FJD

stop defending the bags. Since you were a wx officer for numerous years on the O side I will give you numerous of years on the E side. First and foremost pilots are the biggest whinebags out there. If you tell them anything other than VFR they start moaning and groaning well I have to fly I need 1000/2 or whatever their mins are.

Then the phrase shopping for weather starts well whats it like here whats it like there whats it gonna be like in 10 min 20 min blah blah, like we are fricking God or something.

Any pilot who takes what ATC says as official over the air field observation/forecast/MEF is asking for trouble. You want to know the problem in SWA? Its called data sparse no radar ( not sure where he got his radar shot from since there are like none in Iraq. Satelite which is a great tool but cant begin to tell you what is going on under the clouds.

We weather folk bust our ass off in the sandbox and to read this complete and utter bull is a disgrace then to see you defend his statement like its gospel shame on you. Maybe if you had sat on the counter some instead of driving a desk managing people for 25 of your 26 years you would have a damn clue.

Posted by: WXMAN | May 31, 2006 06:36 AM

First off, I will say good job for Bert's crew landing in those conditions. Tough job to do, however they did land safely, and for that I commend them. However, what I do NOT commend is the fact that they disregard weather forecasts with such disdain that they even go so far as to blatantly call them lies. Even despite the fact that they themselves are not weather forecasters or observers. So apparantly, they know more than those who have spent a multitude of years forecasting and observing themselves. I forecast for bases close to Al Taqqadum and Fallujah, and given the dates the post was made and days surrounding that timeframe beforehand, there where plenty of reports of visibility less than one mile at that base, around the time he would have been flying during night time hours. We have products to help us detect lightning, and CWT deployed to the field have different tools at their disposal to detect lightning as well. Given that it is tactical equipment, may not be the most accurate, but it picks up lightning strikes on a very well. Nothing was detected. Nothing was picked up. I know, because I just went back and looked at those tools from previous dates. Nothing was picked up. Our worksheets that we as forecasters use to describe all of our reasoning and including a discussion on lightning and radar, again, nothing was mentioned. Also, conditions changed and probably new TAFs had been issued in between the time you where given your 175-1 and the time you actually took off. Next time, look at actual current data, the forecasts, etc. And what website did you look up to find radar on? Because I know for damn sure that as the squadron responsible for issuing the forecasts for Iraq, we sure don't have hardly any radar. The only one in Iraq we have is for a base in northern Iraq, and it doesn't show anything but a 50 nautical mile ring around that base. Al Taqqadum is certainly not in that ring. Also, if you supposedly saw TS on radar, or whatever you looked at, why in the hell did you fly? You know if you guys go down in an aircraft mishap, we have to do reviews, data saves, we have to answer to our superiors why, how, when, etc. All of that on top of the fact that we still have to issue your warnings, advisories, and watches all with plenty of lead time to make sure your aircraft doesn't crash. If you go down, not only does all of that happen, but can you imagine how we'd feel knowing a pilot wasn't smart enough to use common sense and ended up crashing? We're the weather forecasters, you're the pilots. Start acting like it. If we see reason for you not to fly, follow it. Don't fly just because you feel you have to. The day you become educated enough to know weather and how it truly affects operations, then you can write your own forecast, instead of sitting back and calling us liars behind our backs.

Posted by: olx wx | May 31, 2006 10:37 AM

OLX WX-
WOW!! I was sitting here at my computer last night trying to come up with a more detailed post than what I had put on here earlier but I was so angry for you guys out in the field that I couldn't come up with the words. I read your post this morning and saw you had done that for me. Good job! Nothing feels as good as proving an idiot like "Bert" wrong with hard facts. I hope y'all are doing a review so that you can shove it in his commanders face when the JAG inquiry is done...

I don't want to come accross as ignorant by cussing at Bert, but oh well, I say screw the guy. We as wx people know that everything he wrote is just his way of taking his stupidity and turning it around, covering his ass, then glorifying himself to make him and his flight crew look good by bashing us. "All hail the war hero" what a knucklehead.

There are so many lies in his story it is humourous! (I know it's not funny for the guys who he is slamming, and believe me I feel for you - but have comfort in the knowledge that this guy is up for a JAG review and probably won't be flying much longer.)but just look at the stupidity of his post - "As with every mission, we ran through our checklists, paying particular attention to the weather" - This guy gives new meaning to the term "An Army of One" - because he is one of a kind in some ways -we in weather know that most of the time (NOT ALL OF THE TIME) pilots come in and act as though getting thier dash-1 done is and irritating necessity, and pay only as much attention as needed... so where he gets off on saying he was paying "close attention" is a bunch of bull.
There are just so many flatout lies in his story.
The way he talks he sounds like he knows everything about weather, so "oo-rah & no one comes close" to his abilities to forecast - y'all AF and Marines need to pack your stuff up, hop on the closest plane, and come the hell home. It's obvious this guy knows so much about weather that "we" weather people are not needed over there. Come home! ;)

Posted by: KBAD | May 31, 2006 11:58 AM

KBAD, where are you getting your information that Stover is up for a JAG review? The event itself probably would not warrant one.

Posted by: RedGrey62 | May 31, 2006 02:16 PM

Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is my first, and last, time to entertain the idea of submitting my thoughts on a "blog". Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stover apparently fails to realize that he is in a combat environment. As a very senior combat and aviation weather officer who has served in Iraq, I feel that someone must put this young pilot into his place. But, that is not my duty as I am not in his chain of command. However, I do have some comments.
First, one must never allow his emotions to overcome his professionalism. There are procedures in place to allow a pilot to voice his concerns. Once those concerns are heard, there are procedures to investigate and fix the problem, if need be. This "blog" certainly does not fall into any military chain of command and only a person with an agenda would use such a source.
Second, without saying here who does what in Iraq, all the military weather personnel in Iraq, and in support of Iraq, are professionals, in every way. When I was there, we (all services) worked together, diligently, putting together a sound "one theater, one forecast" method of ensuring both safety of flight and personnel while ensuring that the combat mission could be completed. Our combatant and wing commanders relied heavily on these forecasts! The amount of weather personnel and weather resources that have been directed to Iraq is amazing.
Third. The environment in Iraq is hostile to aviation, rolling stock and personnel. Although similar to the U.S. in latitude, Iraq has different weather patterns, some of which are extremely hard to discern. You show me a weather man or woman with a computer that will get the weather correct 100% of the time, and I will show you a Trillionair!
Forth. And this is my opinion of CWO-2 Stover and his comments. It is unfortunate that this young pilot had a bad day during COMBAT. But, it looks like he is planning a second career as a journalist. Or, maybe journalism is his first career and the Army was just a paycheck? Anyway, Marines and Soldiers are dieing there everyday. The liberal press continues to show only the negative events that occur. Why don't you, as a soldier who has time to actually get on a computer and write to the Washington Post, tell the good stories. When you are flying around, take a look out of the window. Tell us the good things you see. Tell us about the schools we built and the jobs we created. Tell the readers of the Washington Post the good things you did today instead of complaining about the support you did or did not receive! Try being a good American soldier, and smile once in awhile! (like in your photo on this "blog") You may find life a bit easier to handle and Iraq to be a better place.
Very Respectfully,
A Very Senior Weather Officer who has served, and continues to serve his country and its people well!

Posted by: Very Senior Wether Officer | May 31, 2006 02:22 PM

I know I said I would only make one comment on a "blog" but as I read more about CWO-2 Stover's life in Iraq, I have noticed that he is not happy with much of anything in Iraq. Then I noticed that is a part of a National Guard unit. Well, Mr. Stover, I hope you return to your "fluff and fold" laundry service soon. Apparantly, you are not doing much flying because you are spending all your time writing to the Washington Post. I am sure that when you get back, the "Post" will have a job for you and you can get the heck out of the military. This is not the place for you! Good luck with your journalism career! Shoot, maybe you can fly a traffic helo with ALL of your experience!

Posted by: Very Senior Weather Officer | May 31, 2006 02:44 PM

RedGrey62 - can't say, but reread his blog and I'm sure you will be able to put two and two together..

Posted by: KBAD | May 31, 2006 04:16 PM

As a weather forecaster, I have produced numerous products for Air Force and Army Support. I am now responsible for products that go to ALL branches for planning purposes. I happen to know that the amount of information out there is endless. Now, I cannot help the fact that some "customers" out there cannot understand those products. That is the VERY reason YOU are briefed by the forecaster at the counter. That forecaster looks at all the products available and gives you the best determination for that day. I know FOR A FACT that a forecaster is NOT PERSUADED to allow flights in hazardous conditions. We are taught from day 1 that we will be pressured; however, it is our responsibility to see that assets are protected. These "assets" include hard-headed pilots like yourself that either complain that he or she cannot fly or complain that the forecast is wrong. Let me know when you receive your Bachelor's degree in Meteorology or some formal training in Meteorology. Then, PERHAPS, we forecasters can take your issues as constructive criticism rather than petty gripes!!!

Posted by: wxguy | May 31, 2006 06:14 PM

You have a belly button? What the hell does that have to do with anything? One thing is for sure, you have SFB if you dont know that means go find someone who knows and ask them. You are a tool

Posted by: WXGURU | May 31, 2006 10:30 PM

Wow, that ticked off the wx guessers. Look guys, the weather changes. It's weather, not mountains. I made two runs to Baghdad one night. The first was beautiful and very clear. On the second trip, half-way there the vis to our left looked bad. We diverted, flying from one little town to the next and trying to maintain good visibility. But passing one little town we punched into the fog, dust, haze, goo... I call it smusk. We climbed, headed home, and climbed out the top of it at 2700 feet. From clear blue to 2700 feet of 1/4 mile vis smusk. No one had forecast it and it hadn't been there 45 minutes prior. That's just what it does in Iraq at night. The reason we get so excited about the inaccuracies (for whatever reason) is because we're FLYING in it. Did a forecaster ever die because the weather he reported changed? I doubt it. We all make mistakes. Weather guys adjust their forecasts based on pireps, and pilots punch in and do an instrument recovery. It's OK. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and try the decaf.

Posted by: CW4 Higg | June 1, 2006 01:05 AM

KBAD, not trying to malign you, but there is no reason for a JAG review. There was no mishap, Class A, B or C. You say that all I have to do is add 2 and 2 together to see that a review will happen. In 24 years of observing, forecasting, and briefing, I have been invloved in exactly one investigation and it was for a Class A mishap far more serious than what CW2 Stover went through. I think you have a case of wishful thinking, deal with the facts. Probably the only people interested in reviewing and pursuing this incident are the weather agencies that feel we've been slighted somehow. And as the Very Senior Weather Officer stated, this will be my last comment on this blog.

Posted by: RedGrey62 | June 1, 2006 04:15 AM

Sir, I have no reason to "wishful think" - why would I stoop to the level of the original writer (AKA Bert) and make things up to add interest to my responses to this blog? Berts flight crew deliberately & unnecessrily(sp) put themselves and their "cargo" in serious harms way. Normally when a pilot does this there is no proof to do any sort of investigation, why would a pilot say "boy, I was a knucklehead and deliberatly ignored safety advice before my flight, then I made stuff up just in case someone reported my stupidity" but alas, Berts lack of intelligence by posting his stupid actions on a blog have given proof to his and his flight crews total lack of regards for standand flight safety - you as a weather person knows that if flight mins go below a certain level a crew must go up the chain to get permission to fly, maybe berts crew didn't want to mess with that.Who knows. Not to mention that he released some info that should not be released. I am not making stuff up - contrary to the beliefs of some wx people do not "just make stuff up". I'm just going by what I've been told, if my source is wrong than I guess I am too. Guess its just a matter of time til we find out.- My last post too, I've given this idiot (bert) far too much of my time. I just pray for everyone over there that neither him nor his flight crew have to fly any more souls around. Let them stick to ferrying MRES & bottles of water... If they want to commit suicide then I guess we can't stop 'em.

Posted by: kbad | June 1, 2006 10:34 AM

One question evades the discussion. Why are people on active duty in a theater of war allowed to blog, particularly in a medium controlled by the media? It would seem that this kind of activity would be restricted, given the amount of information about our systems, practices and procedures being blogged daily. I have asked my congressman why this is allowed. It might just be new, because blogging is relatively new, and DOD may not have even considered the issue. Probably they figured we all had enough common sense to understand that if the insurgents were sophisticated enough to post the beheading of our people in a video on their websites they would be able to search and access our commentaries, and we would simply restrain ourselves from giving up information in a public forum.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | June 1, 2006 10:59 AM

CW4,
THe problem is that the author accused the weather people of giving knowingly false reports, which seems to me (as a pilot) probably the worst thing you could accuse a forecaster of doing.

Posted by: | June 1, 2006 11:22 AM

Another WeatherMom,
Overall, I think that the military bloggers do a huge service, because (as a whole) they provide a much more accurate picture than the general media does of what is really going on in Iraq.

Posted by: | June 1, 2006 03:10 PM

We now have a weather rock, when its wet,its raining, when we can't see it = dust storm, when its hot = well it's hot, and guess what, the JAG is here, we are smart enough to print items of interest, IE. several nights ago, forcasters called for a dust storm, "we" chose to stay on the ground, 1 hour later dust storm warning lifted, all A/C cleared to fly ,30 minutes later, 2 seperate Marine sections went IIMC,no more flying that night, so who gave that o.k.? I have it in print. To the forcasters we know it wasn't your doing, but you have a standing invitation to come fly with us anytime, anywhere, you can choose what night based on your forecast. As for shopping for weather not this CW4, cargo and pax can wait till it clears, if it doesn't we will clean it up the next night.

Posted by: CW4 in Bert's unit | June 1, 2006 05:51 PM

Whoever wrote this:

Another WeatherMom,
Overall, I think that the military bloggers do a huge service, because (as a whole) they provide a much more accurate picture than the general media does of what is really going on in Iraq.

There is a big difference between accurate reporting of a situation and going to great lengths to discredit the work of other professionals. Perhaps other military bloggers are better reporters. Certainly this particular series of comments includes individuals who are both erudite and able to express themselves well. Unfortunately it began with bravado, insults, and sensationalism. I'm sure that gave us some idea of what's going on in Iraq, but mostly of what's going on in Bert's world.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | June 1, 2006 10:16 PM

Another Weather Mom,
That post was mine, sorry-I missed the "Name" box on it. I agree with you (as my earlier posts indicated) concerning his comments about the weather personnel. I found his description of the conditions he had to fly in very interesting, and he should have left it at that.

Posted by: exhelodrvr | June 2, 2006 11:05 AM

Spectre, Another Weather Mom, WX Guy, et al,

Nobody is claiming that Mr. Stover is infallible and the blame for his in-flight excitement all lies with some pack of unreliable weather forecasters.

What I am saying is that, if you read carefully and filter for the standard aviator/military/macho bravado which guys who get shot at tend to embrace, Mr. Stover is offering the folks back home a glimpse into his world as a National Guard aviator flying in a combat zone -- warts and all.

Among all you folks who are biting down bile at Mr. Stover's comments, how many of you have commended his willingness to hang the pilots' misjudgements out there as well? While he did not admit to an error in judgement, take a moment to go back and read the blog entry he refers to in his intoductory paragraph ("The Number One Threat in Iraq: Ourselves")? If you do, you will find this admission:

"Since visibility in Iraq is often compromised with blowing dust, we take the weather forecasters' determination of visibility with a grain of salt (or dust) and usually step outside to find the visibility to be much worse than the official forecast. But that rarely leads to a scrapped mission. Sometimes, we fly because of peer pressure. And commanders are often pushy, attempting to accomplish the mission no matter what, even if the weather is sub-par.
"Regardless -- when the visibility is poor and we take off, we become our own enemy."

Posted by: wlc (safe at home) | June 3, 2006 08:48 AM

My son is a weather forecaster. Before that, an observor. For Bert's information, they gather weather data from a variety of sources, including stepping outside. They do not have the luxury, equipment, or time to view the weather, literally, from the perspective of a pilot. In the very real sense that you (in Iraq) are all in this theater of war together, it would seem to me that, regardless of the apparent TOTAL separation of branches of the military, at least on the individual level you would work together by swapping weather observations. FYI, if you ever make it into the business world, this will be expected of you, so you might try it out now. Unfortunately, the business world actually believes you learn to function as a team in the military.

I don't believe it is Bert's place to hang ANYBODY, pilot, forecaster, or whoever his next target is, nor do I believe we necessarily need a real-time view of what everyone is going in Iraq if it means that one group of people or other come under the microscope of their command because a pilot loaded to the teeth with standard aviator/military/macho bravado needed an audience.

There are plenty of people like you, wlc (safe at home), who can write this claptrap--ideally people who are out of service and not in a position to immediately screw up somebody's career/mission/life while they are in a WAR ZONE where they have no way of hunting you down and confronting you for your lies and accusations.

Bert's standard aviator/military/macho bravado b.s. has caused EXTRAORDINARY problems beyond your understanding for a number of people who can't believe they have been screwed by somebody else in the same theater of action just so he can have his name and exploits in print for the world to read. It is a complete mystery to me that a person who is in the military would fail to understand how unguarded comments, let alone b.s. in a blog, can impact people totally unknown to them.

Suppose Bert had gone out on a standard mission, run into a trigger happy band of insurgents on the move and, say, God forbid, gotten knocked out of the sky, and managed to get out of it alive. Then suppose somebody in the same theater posted a blog in the Washington Post saying they were watching from the ground and it sure looked like the pilot screwed up because he was somewhere he absolutely wasn't supposed to be, endangering people's lives, military equipment and cargo. And suppose, even though everybody figured that that person's observations were complete b.s., Bert's C.O. was presented with this information.

How would Bert feel?

Even though the forecasters aren't necessarily being shot at directly, they are under fire from all sides by people who want to hear the weather news they need to carry out their missions. They don't need the kind of grief they've been getting from this blog. They get enough on their own.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | June 3, 2006 01:18 PM

All this chatter from the weather guys/girls and their supporters comes across as a gross overreaction to me, a civilian in the states. The fact is that the role of a helicopter pilot is clearly more dangerous than that of a weather forecaster (Note: I understand that all you soldiers over there are in danger and putting yourselves on the line. I am only pointing out that some jobs are inherently and vastly more dangerous than others). I think the weather crowd should be a little more understanding that they play a support role, albeit a vital one. They are there to make sure the pilots get their job done. Sure the pilots jerk your guys' chain a little, especially after a close call like Bert experienced. These soldiers are under a lot of strain (as in the 'Good God I almost just died' kind of strain). So your feelings were hurt. Deal with it in some other way than tearing this guy apart.

Posted by: TigerTribe | June 5, 2006 11:25 PM

Okay, Another Weather Mom, you have succeeded in tapping a couple of my own hot buttons.

First off, people screw up in and out of war zones all the time. It's human, and most rational people learn to look at mistakes as something to learn from -- both their own and other people's. The only way to achieve zero mistakes is to do nothing. In other words, if you haven't screwed up at some point, you're not in the fight.

Second, there are people who *need* to get their butts chewed for making dangerously stupid mistakes and remaining oblivious to them -- and get pulled out of the fight if they remain oblivious. As an NCO and commissioned officer, that was part of my job description when leading infantry soldiers.

Third, there is nothing magical about a war zone which fundamentally changes either of the above facts. The biggest change is probably in the burden on a soldier's conscience because of the cost of his or her mistakes.

(Before anybody accuses me of being hard-core from the comfort of my living room, I just finished a 13-month stay in Iraq as a fobbit. For those interested in a little cold-hearted historical perspective, we were burying more than 800 soldiers each year back when I had chevrons on my sleeves during the early 80s [disbelievers should check out the numbers for the early 1980s at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/army2.html]. )

Fourth, the last time I looked, problems which left nobody bleeding or missing body parts do not count as extraordinary. Military service exists for the benefit of the nation, not the servicemember. Almost everybody I have known who has served has paid a significant personal price for their service, the most common costs being families ripped asunder and post-service medical problems. If anybody is not comfortable with that fact, then he or she probably should not have signed that enlistment contract.

Posted by: wlc | June 6, 2006 12:55 AM

It seems as if though Bert's comments have created a little more stir than anticipated. After thinking about this topic with more depth and allowing some time for everything to cool off, I can see why Bert feels the way that he does. I have never really noticed how esoteric the weather career field is, at the same time I guess every career is like that. Unless you have been a meteorologist under these conditions then you wouldn't understand. It is apparent that at some point or another that failures have occurred at both ends, whether it be negligence or just a simple miscommunication. Regardless, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Bert, tell us what you think would make the process a little easier. I know what the conditions are like at TQ as far as the weather situation goes, but I will not divulge them over these channels. If you have any ideas, run it through your chain of command, hopefully this will create a dialogue and correct the issues for everyone. The time for insults and diatribes is over, we need to remain focused on the cause at hand, which is making sure these pilots get the support they need to put steel on target and move supplies where they need to be.

To address Tiger Tribe's comments, as a civilian in the states who has never experienced life in "The Suck", I would suggest you do some further research before making suggestions for the weather personnel. To enlighten you about the "danger" of the weather career field, consider that there are some of us who are trained as special forces troops, the first ground troops who ventured into Iraq were weather operators who snuck onto Bubiyan Island to prepare for the main assault. A lot of us are also certified paratroopers who are assigned to provide weather support for the various elements in SOCOM. We are also assigned to infantry units with aviation support, several weather forecasters were present with the 3rd Infantry Division in the initial surge towards Baghdad.

Posted by: Spectre | June 6, 2006 05:19 PM

For those of you who would like to find out more about what the weather forecasters in Iraq go through and how their job is accomplished, check out the Weather Channel every now and then. They usually run a special every few weeks about the weather units involved and the technology that is exploited to accomplish the mission.

Posted by: Spectre | June 6, 2006 05:22 PM

I ran the gamut emotionally as I read this initial blog posting and the subsequent comments. Curiosity quickly turned to what can only be described as a protective sense of anger. Ultimately, I am thankful the pilot and crew were safe. Yet, I find myself in a position of defending the weather personnel whom, to the layperson reading this blog, are unfairly portrayed.

My husband spent eighteen of the last thirty-six months forecasting in Iraq. He worked seven days a week on twelve-hour shifts. I can only ascertain that the author must have misused the term "lies" in his expression of opinion. In addition, I can express with complete conviction my husband regards his forecast in the highest regard. It is beyond ridiculous that he would ever intentionally lie to a pilot! How insulting! As well, as I understand it, it is not in the power of any forecaster to cancel any type of mission. Please feel free to correct me if I am mistaken on that point.

It was suggested in a previous comment that we (weather folk) are misdirecting our responses and getting our feelings hurt. To that I say yes, my feelings are hurt. Hurt that this pilot has seemingly forgotten the meaning of loyalty. Hurt that my husband could have been home with and his family for those eighteen months since his service, according to the guy with all the time to blog, are so clearly not needed in the sandbox.

Posted by: ssgtwife_2006 | June 7, 2006 11:13 PM

ssgtwife_2006, your husband's services are needed in the sandbox, as are the services of many more competent folks. A huge handicap to operations over there is the high percentage of folks who not only don't know what they're doing, they don't know how wrong they are.

As to your feelings being hurt, try putting yourself in the shoes of the good finance and personnel clerks who are maligned every time somebody gets their pay or promotion messed up -- then think how considerate you were of their feelings the last time your husband's pay was messed up. Were you being disloyal to your husband's fellow soldiers?

The simple fact is that soldiers (and those around them) tend to be rather insensitive when things are not going right. Mr. Stover and his critics are all guilty on that count (as is yours truly). It doesn't make them bad people, it just marks them as human.

Posted by: wlc | June 9, 2006 01:32 PM

wlc-
I appreciate that Mr. Stover isn't a bad person. I am not so presumptuous to assume I am in a place to pass that sort of judgment.
I only intended to hold him accountable for his thoughts when posting them in a public forum. There is a huge disparity in someone being unqualified or incompetent and being a liar. None of which I would use to describe my husband for obvious reasons.

In addition, the extent of my conversations with military personal include; getting my id, registering my car to get on base and signing up for TriCare. I am sure there are a contingent of wives that may be "guilty" of being less than gracious but please do not lump me in that group based on one blog comment posted on a completely unrelated topic.

Perception is reality, as I am sure we all know. My reality after reading the blog was one in which I felt a need to express my displeasure with Mr. Stover's choice of words. The operative word being "my". Isn't that the point of free speech? We don't have to like what other people say but we are beyond blessed to be able to respond with our own words.
Best Regards

Posted by: ssgtwife_2006 | June 9, 2006 02:35 PM

After reviewing the original narrative and the subsequent comments, I believe CWO2 Stover managed to commit libel by claiming the work of the forecasters amounted to lies, and he did it because the Washington Post apparently believes no one will sue them for being a party to libel if it's done on the internet. Fortunately for Mr. Stover, he is unlikely to be sued. In my opinion, it would be inadvisable, therefore, to use this piece in a printed compilation of some sort, because the libel rules are addressed at great length for print.

I imagine, Mr. Stover, that you enjoy writing, and apparently can anticipate some readership with regard to your experiences, so, I would suggest that you do yourself, and the rest of us, a favor, and take some time to study journalism ethics before you post or publish your adventures. I'm not implying that the journalists are error-free, but at least the people who are imbedded appear to be rather judicious with regard to what they say and write about, and focus specifically on the facts rather than on the sensation.

At the end of the day, I don't believe any one of us disagrees about the level of danger faced by each pilot and crew, each member of the military in the air, ground, and sea. I believe we each pray for the safe return of all, as soon as expedient, with successful missions in the process. I just hope that each person remembers that he or she is just one part of a team that depends on the best efforts of every other member of the team, and if there appears to be some anomaly in the information provided, whether by the weather, intelligence or operations personnel, the concern is registered quickly through the proper channels to be remedied, rather than left for the general public to consider, speculate, and judge.

God bless each of you, and the friends and relatives you still have overseas.

Posted by: Another Weather Mom | June 18, 2006 08:08 PM

I was reading some of CW Stovers other blogs (Posted at 02:00 AM ET, 05/19/2006
The Number One Threat in Iraq: Ourselves)and found this interesting. He is saying the WX people are lying to his unit but in this other blog he is admitting that they fly because of peer pressure and his own commanders. I think he is just writing what ever gets the attention of the reader and really doesnt have a clue what he is doing.
"Sometimes, we fly because of peer pressure. And commanders are often pushy, attempting to accomplish the mission no matter what, even if the weather is sub-par."
As you can clearly read he made no mention of the WX people reporting the weather incorrectly but clearly admitted that his own chain of command is the reason they fly in bad conditions.

Posted by: Berts a whiner | June 26, 2006 03:26 PM

Lets see, We've got a scumbag in rat squad trying to bring charges, Weather mommy crying and wringing her hands, some shrill sister making threats, and allegations of people telling lies about the weather. Boo hoo!!! I've worked in Iraq and reside in south Louisiana. Both places have extreme, unpredictable weather. Over there it's dust storms and here it's violent squalls that blow up out of nowhere. Samey same. I've flown as pax while in Iraq and made countless flights to offshore oil platforms in far less than favorable conditions. This is part of the job. The saying "feeces occurs" applies here. All this crying and whining is pointless. Trying to apply military code and proceedure to weather is as produtive as herding cats. Young hotrods in the cockpit will get you killed. True, but you can't use every excuse to stay on the ground and accomplish your mission either. There is a judgement call to be made. This is where experience is vital. This whole beef is a non issue. Get er' done and get home soon!

Fester

Posted by: Fester | September 21, 2006 04:04 PM

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