“An abuse of government assets” Five Hurricane Hunters disciplined for stop in Martha’s Vineyard
403rd Wing aircrew receive discipline for misuse of WC-130J aircraft
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A five-member crew from Keesler’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is being disciplined for adding a personal stop to a flight itinerary in order to pick up a crewmember’s motorcycle.
On March 24, the crew left Keesler Air Force Base and landed at Quonset Air National Guard Base in Rhode Island. The next day, unbeknownst to 403rd leadership, the crew added Martha’s Vineyard Airport to the itinerary to retrieve a crewmember’s 1970 BMW R75/5 motorcycle. The crew then continued their mission onto Mather, California, to pick up 403rd Wing equipment that was staged there for atmospheric river mission support.
On March 27, leadership was notified of the stop and they immediately grounded the crew at Mather. Another crew was sent to pick up the aircraft and crew the next day. The motorcycle remains in California.
“Air Force Reserve crews must put in flight training time each month to keep their qualifications, and off-station training achieves valid training requirements,” said Col. Stuart M. Rubio, 403rd Wing commander. “This personal stop was an abuse of government assets. We hold our reservists to the highest standards of conduct and these actions are not tolerated.”
All aircrew members were downgraded on crew qualifications and administrative actions have been served.
Better known as the “Hurricane Hunters,” the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 403rd Wing, is the only unit in the Department of Defense that flies into tropical storms to gather weather data for National Hurricane Center forecasts, data that satellites can’t collect. During the winter months, they fly winter storms on the East Coast and atmospheric rivers, massive bands of moisture that cause huge amounts of rainfall and flooding, on the West Coast to improve forecasts.
To accomplish these missions, the unit deploys to various locations to get closer to these weather systems; thus, aircrews go to various locations to train and operate and these locations are chosen based on training value.
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