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Vandenberg's LWOs keep their eyes sky high

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Capt. Andrew Frey, a 30th Weather Squadron launch weather officer, is preparing for a lead role as a LWO for Vandenberg’s next scheduled launch. Vandenberg's LWO's next big task is a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket scheduled for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-2 Dec. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Capt. Andrew Frey, a 30th Weather Squadron launch weather officer, is preparing for a lead role as a LWO for Vandenberg’s next scheduled launch. Vandenberg's LWO's next big task is a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket scheduled for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-2 Dec. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Given the location on California's Central Coast, Vandenberg experiences climates that vary widely, from its dry summer season to its cool, foggy and rainy winter season. Regardless of what the weather might bring, Vandenberg continues to deliver unrivaled space power.

When rockets or missiles are scheduled to launch from Vandenberg, there is one group who is solely responsible for making sure there are no delays due to the weather - the 30th Weather Squadron.

More specifically, on the day of a launch at Vandenberg, the 30th WS's launch weather officers, often referred to as the "Fog Dogs," are in control of determining and acting on the probability of a successful launch.

Some of the tasks preformed by the LWOs include monitoring weather constraints, range safety constraints, launch agency constraints, surface winds, changes in wind directions, wind speed and temperatures.

Vandenberg's LWO's next big task is a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket scheduled for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-2 Dec. 11.

"Anytime a launch occurs in December, the weather will probably not be in our favor," said Capt. Andrew Frey, the 30th WS chief of standardization and evaluation. "As we normally do, we have started planning for this next launch by checking the current climatology reports. We will then continue to follow the weather patterns and monitor new weather data leading up to the next launch. Now, we are tying all this information together to figure out, and accurately forecast, the type of weather we will be experiencing on the day of the launch."

Preparing for a launch does not occur the day, week or even month of a scheduled launch day; Vandenberg's LWOs train year-round.

"We go through rehearsals leading up to launches throughout the year because we don't like to be surprised by what might happen," Captain Frey said. "During these rehearsals we go over our rules and checklists and make sure there are no last-minute constraints. All of this preparation is to make sure our personnel and equipment is ready to support an upcoming launch."

Although the role of the LWO is critical on the day of a launch, it is a combined team effort that carries out the mission of the 30th WS.

"The way we work together and our successes over the years gives credit to the weather career field," said the Pennsylvania native. "We all get along very well. Every member of our team adds value to the puzzle. We make sure everyone agrees with the launch weather forecast before we will decide how to proceed."

With only 13 members, the 30th WS relies on teamwork to monitor the weather of the vastness of Vandenberg, which is located along 33 miles of coastline and sits on approximately 100,000 acres of property.

"On the day of a launch, I am focused and in the zone," Captain Frey said. "I have to stay focused because a lot of responsibility hinges on what I say and do. My job is one of the few jobs where a weather officer gets to make the 'go' or 'no go' call on the day of a launch. As an LWO, if the weather is in violation of a set constraint, we have the authority to hold a launch. All of this is due to the fact that weather is constant and absolutely has to be taken into account."

As Vandenberg prepares for its next launch, the 30th WS and its LWOs will continue to work toward their vision of producing the "...world's most respected weather professionals, enhancing America's assured access to space, through expertise, teamwork and premier facilities."