Base technicians keep a weather radar ready to track a storm

  • Published
  • By Brian Lambert
  • 78th Operations Support Squadron

The Air Force uses long range detection systems to track enemy forces, but what if the enemy is a severe storm? Well there is a high–tech radar that serves as an early warning system to tell everyone to take cover when a dangerous storm is coming.

What looks like a golf ball for the Jolly Green giant is actually a National Weather Service Doppler radar. This site is located near Jeffersonville, Ga. and is maintained by a group of technicians assigned to the Air Traffic Control and Landing System section of the 78th Operations Support Squadron.

The radar provides a real-time view of the Middle Georgia area, and is the same imagery that is shown by local TV weather broadcasts.

During the severe weather that came through Middle Georgia last January, this critical radar system stopped working and emergency repairs had to be done.

On Saturday Jan. 21, at 5 p.m., the National Weather Service (NWS) in Peachtree City GA called to request ATCALS maintenance to respond to an outage at the weather radar site in Jeffersonville, GA. 


Due to a severe weather outbreak, Dennis Robbins and Sam Pursley immediately responded to the site.  After approximately three hours of troubleshooting the technicians discovered a bad elevation motor.   With the understanding that removing and replacing the motor requires four technicians it was decided to come back the next day and make the repairs.


On Sunday morning, with severe weather again heading toward the Middle Ga. area the NWS again requested ATCALS to respond to the radar. Team lead, Brian Lambert contacted all ATCALS employees and requested any/all volunteers to respond.


Upon getting this request and understanding the severity of the weather all technicians responded.


George Pacheco left his daughters volleyball tournament in Tennessee to respond. Mike Jordan also responded from Valdosta GA where he was visiting family. Kevin Barfield came from Gainesville Ga. where he was attending his daughter’s pageant, and Lambert who was on vacation in Blue Ridge Ga. also responded.


By 2 p.m. ATCALS technicians had removed and replaced the bad motor and returned the weather radar into service. Shortly after returning the radar to service, the NWS used the critical asset to confirm severe weather and issued tornado watches/warnings in Middle Ga. area.


After the severe weather cleared the Middle Ga. area, Steve Nelson who is the Lead Science and Operations Officer from the NWS in Peachtree City called and expressed how the radar played a critical role in issuing the warnings which allowed the local population enough time to take shelter prior to the tornadoes arriving in central Georgia.