It's important to know what the weather will be like on any given day. With just a quick check on the internet or your local news, you can determine whether your uniform of the day is going to involve shorts or rain boots. And while knowing the weather back in States is helpful, it's not like the success of a mission is hanging in the balance.
This is where military weathermen come into play. Whether it's to determine if conditions are suitable for aircraft or for delicate SEAL operations, military meteorologists play an essential role.
There are three types of military meteorologists used by the United States Armed Forces. The first are the most conventional, often found behind the computers at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (for the Navy) and the 557th Weather Wing (for the Air Force). Historically, these are the troops that commanders would rely on to accurately forecast the weather, which would often be the deciding factor of an upcoming battle.
Civilian meteorologists are fantastic — they average a roughly 2 percent margin of error. Military meteorologists, on the other hand, can't afford such a margin. They use sophisticated techniques and technologies to deliver the most accurate forecasts when massive operations are on the line.
Military meteorologists and the National Weather Service often work together.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)
The second type of meteorologists are the (slightly) insane pilots that fly directly into the eyes of hurricanes. They've been given the apt name of "Hurricane Hunters." Wind speeds over 100 miles per hour are enough to swat an aircraft out of the sky, but these pilots make due in order to keep the civilians back stateside safe — mostly because no one else is daring enough to take on such an important task.
These courageous airmen fly into the eyes of hurricanes and collect whatever data they can about the approaching storm, including wind speeds, air pressure, and humidity. Getting this sort of information from the direct center of the storm is the only way for the folks back home to accurately determine the hurricane's trajectory — and any potential damage it may cause.
Nope. Screw that.
Finally, we have the airmen that have rightfully earned the right to call themselves operators. Troops who've never encountered the special operations weather technicians of the Air Force may scoff at their "special operations" status, but they're no joke. These airmen are embedded with the rest of the operators as they sneak into locations with recon teams and collect valuable information for an upcoming assault.
The SOWTs are trained as recon first and weathermen second. They've been a part of nearly every major special operation mission since their establishment in the 70s. These guys were the first into Pakistan just before Operation Neptune Spear with the CIA and gave the final thumbs for the operation that ended in Osama Bin Laden's death.
Make no mistake. The gray berets are just as operator as the next.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery)
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