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Soaking Seymour: Wet weather cannot stop wing’s mission

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Mother Nature threw a haymaker at the 4th Fighter Wing Thursday, but the installation managed to sidestep the wet weather's full impact.

A series of thunderstorms, which had some of the swirling traits of tornadoes, delivered more than four inches of rainwater to the installation, forcing personnel to execute safety and risk-management strategies.

Some roads, gates and runways were shut down, some buildings were evacuated, and some Airmen sought safety under desks or in hallways, but could the wicked weather slow the wing's mission of providing airpower on target, on time for America?

The wing did not fly all of its scheduled training sorties Thursday, so the weather influence's on the flying mission was substantial. But canceling sorties due to adverse weather conditions is an understood necessity for wing operations planners.

Weather cancellations are speed bumps, not barricades. Operations group leaders project for lost sorties and have a plan to ensure personnel and aircraft remain ready to fight America's wars.

"As long as we don't cancel more sorties than our historical average, we have plenty of capacity to make it up in the normal schedule," Col. William D. Millonig, 4th Operations Group Deputy Commander. "Should we cancel an abnormally high number over a long period of time, we have a few options."

One option is to schedule a surge. A surge adds extra sorties to a typical daily flying schedule at an increased tempo. Another includes flying on weekends, though Colonel Millonig said group leadership tries to avoid this option.

While adverse weather occasionally affects flying schedules, the wing's F-15E Strike Eagles can operate effectively in these conditions if called upon. Though it can be done, risk is heightened.

"Flying inherently carries some risk, so we balance the need for training with any additional risk the weather may bring," the Colonel said. "Weather has been around a lot longer than airplanes have."
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