Hurricane Hunters crew disciplined for unplanned stop at Martha’s Vineyard

A five-man Hurricane Hunters air crew has been disciplined for an unplanned stop at Martha’s Vineyard Airport in March.

Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo, public affairs chief for the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, said the airmen misused taxpayer dollars with the trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

“We have an obligation to the taxpayers to use those dollars wisely,” Losurdo said. “So while they did plan the mission and they were conducting training, where they went wrong was when they picked up that bike. It was for personal use, and that is where there was an issue.”

The Reserve crew with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 403rd Wing, received administrative and aircrew qualification-related discipline for misuse of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Losurdo said in a press release.

“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.

The crew departed Keesler and landed at Quonset Air National Guard Base, Rhode Island on March 24 as scheduled. The following day, the crew, without permission, added Martha’s Vineyard Airport to the flight plan to retrieve a crew member’s 1970 BMW R75/5 motorcycle.

The crew then continued on to their scheduled flight to Mather, Calif., to pick up 403rd Wing equipment that was staged there for atmospheric river mission support. Once leadership was notified of the incident March 27, they grounded the crew at Mather and sent another crew to pick up the aircraft and crew March 28. The motorcycle remains in California.

Better known as the “Hurricane Hunters,” the 53rd WRS 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.

Social media went wild with speculation about why the WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft landed at the tourist town’s airport and who owned the motorcycle. The Hurricane Hunters have 10 WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft in the fleet.

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