Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - Cmdr. Jillene Bushnell relieved Capt. Steve Sopko as commanding officer of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) during a ceremony held Aug. 12, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Sopko had headed the center since June 2014. Bushnell previously served as chief of staff to the director, Warfare Integration on the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare staff.
"I am excited to be on the cusp of science and operations," said Bushnell. "The command is an incredible blend of Navy, Air Force, scientist, and civilian professionals with a very diverse missions set. The [area of responsibility] extends 113 million square miles in both the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins, supporting U.S. afloat and shore-based assets."
Bushnell, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, earned her pilot wings in 2001 and subsequently qualified to fly the S-3B Viking and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. As an aviator she flew more than 1,500 hours and accrued more than 300 carrier landings. She transferred to the meteorology and oceanography community in 2007. She becomes the fifth female commander currently serving as a commanding officer within the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.
"By November 2016, six of my eight commander-level commanding officers will be women," said guest speaker Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Oceanographer of the Navy and commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. "This is way, way above the Navy average for percentage of females in leadership positions."
Sopko, a graduate of Texas A&M University, received his commission via the Naval Research Officer Training Corps in 1988. Under his command, JTWC provided 3,606 forecasts for 124 tropical cyclones, 22,900 aviation weather products and 110 tsunami warning products for 55 events. His next assignment will be on the staff of the Chief of Naval Research, Arlington.
"The Joint Typhoon Warning Center has a long history of outstanding service in the [U.S. Pacific Command] area of responsibility," said Sopko. "JTWC tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings enable fleet commanders to maximize operational time-on-station and maneuver space while ensuring all units remain safe from the considerable impacts of a tropical cyclone. We've made significant improvements to the accuracy of our track forecasts over the last 5 years, setting records for the lowest forecast track error at all forecast times during the 2015 season. The credit for this significant accomplishment goes solely to the highly skilled and dedicated team of professionals at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and our many partners. I am confident they will continue to meet the challenges that surely lie ahead with the same fervor and commitment as seen during my tenure."
JTWC is jointly staffed by U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel and falls under the operational control of commander, Task Group 80.7 (Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command). U.S. Air Force personnel are sourced to JTWC by the 17th Operational Weather Squadron and 557th Weather Wing.
JTWC traces its origins to the aftermath of Typhoon Cobra in December 1944 when the U.S. Navy's Task Force 38 lost three ships, 150 aircraft and more than 700 Sailors while operating in the Philippine Sea. This tragic event prompted many new initiatives aimed at improving tropical cyclone analysis, tracking and forecasting.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center was established in 1959 at the direction of commander, U.S. Pacific Command. JTWC was originally located in Guam, but was moved to its current location in 1999.
JTWC, Fleet Weather Center, San Diego (FWC-SD) and the U.S. Air Force's (USAF) 17th Operational Weather Squadron (OWS) coordinate efforts to prevent future weather-related tragedies of this magnitude. Advances in tropical cyclone reconnaissance and forecasting over the past half-century equip today's commanders with more accurate and actionable information to avoid or mitigate the impacts of tropical cyclones on afloat operations and shore-based installations.