Charlie, Oscar, Whiskey: Tales from the Home Front

If you don’t like it, move (maybe)

Is it just me, or do others think that the weather is getting stranger and stranger?

A couple of weeks ago the Kirtland Air Force Base app on my smart phone pushed out a tornado warning for the area. I was on Facebook at the time and my friends were buzzing about possible tornados in Albuquerque.

People who had transferred to the base from “tornado alley” were giving advice to those who were unsure what to do. One person complained they had left the Midwest specifically to get away from severe weather. Locals were skeptical. “It’s New Mexico—wait a minute and the forecast will change!”

You know that saying, “If you don’t like it, just move?”

We military families have that luxury. If we don’t like the weather, we can move. Maybe not right away, but as we get orders, we will pack up and move to some other climate.

Call it a blessing or a curse. Military life has taught me a little bit about self-reliance. We have lived in tornado, fire, and flood zones, and hurricane impact areas. We were in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Georges and spent six weeks without power, water, or phone.

Here in my neck of the woods, thankfully, we don’t have much severe weather (although this year has been a little bizarre) but we do have fire season—oh, and wind—and the occasional 18-inch snow storm—and a new-to-me-thing, “bomb cyclones,” but for the most part, nothing extreme.

Still, this summer in my neighborhood, I hear the chirping of grasshoppers and a very disconcerting sound of something else—a clicking noise, which someone told me is the sound of beetles eating the pine trees. I’m not for certain on that, but, several of my trees have died since last year. Scientists are connecting higher temperatures and drought to increased bark beetle damage.

Climate change debates aside, there are a lot of people looking at these weather patterns saying, “I don’t remember this when I was a kid,” or “This seems to be a growing trend, we better look at it.”

We have a report in our museum which was compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It has an ominous title: “The US Military on the Front Lines of Rising Seas: Growing Exposure to Coastal Flooding at Eastern Gulf Coast Military Bases.”

One of the key findings in that report states that four East Coast installations, depending on different scenarios, could lose between 35% to 90% of their land area by the year 2100.

Sea levels aren’t the only thing military installations have to consider when it comes to weather. Just recently, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was inundated by flooding from the Missouri River, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida was hit hard during Hurricane Michael.

In 2018, USA Today reported that climate change and extreme weather threatens 50% of U.S. military sites, and of the 3,500 U.S. military sites worldwide, nearly 800 had been affected by droughts, 350 by extreme temperatures, 225 by storm surge-related flooding, and more than 200 by wildfires. I imagine that these statistics must be similar in civilian populations.

It seems like all of us—military and civilian—are living on the frontline of a war that seems nearly impossible to win.

And while we military families continue to develop ways to deal with current weather-related disasters, we know we have a 50-50 chance of moving into another extreme weather zone.

For years, I have had good intentions when it comes to living “greener,” but it is hard, and sometimes I get lazy. I am going to work even harder to do my small part in lessening my family’s impact on the environment. It’s not much, but at least I will be doing my part. And collectively, maybe we can make a difference!

Until Space Force is up and ready for accompanied tours, we don’t have much of a choice.

Circe Olson Woessner is the founder and director of the Museum of the American Military Family in Tijeras, New Mexico. She can be reached at news.ind.veterans@gmail.com.