Ever since Sun Tzu listed the weather as the second of the five most influential factors in “The Art of War”, the military has sought to exploit these factors in the strategic decision process. The most famous of these is D-Day, where a Royal Air Force captain found the ideal break in the weather to send the Allied Forces across the English Channel and onto the various beaches begin the end of WWII. As such military weather forecasters have continued the culture of excellence to this day.
So what it is a military weather forecaster and why do they matter so much? A military weather forecaster in the US Armed Forces is an Airmen, Sailor, or Marine who has completed the Basic Weather Forecasting School at Keesler, AFB and has gone on to serve in the field. Once out there they ply their trade, creating forecast for various bases, flight operations, and other types of operations. These can range from new pilots training to events like medical evacuations or strategic level planning for events such as the Ebola event in Africa.
As such the question now becomes why do they matter so much? As with D-Day, every mission has ideal weather conditions. It is the job of the forecaster to know only know these ideal condition, but to find a time, and sometimes place, were these conditions are closest to the ideal condition. Once these condition are identified than the operation can either be delayed, canceled or proceed. As such weather has become, in most cases, the first thing that the operator is informed about.
These skills also translate into the civilian world. For instance, an accurate wind speed and direction forecast can help with determining how widespread chemical or nuclear fallout can reach. Space and Solar forecasting skills are used for determining impacts to communications and GPS. Weather observations are also used to help verify Watches, Warnings and Advisories. Even accurate temperature and dew point forecasts can help law enforcement in predicting time of death through body decomposition.
Soft skills are also acquired in this field as well. Standing up and briefing flag officers requires strong public communication skills. Eventually management skills and team skills are developed working with and leading people of various backgrounds. Strong writing skills and logic skills are developed and refined through writing forecast reasoning and lateral thinking is used when figuring out the best way to accomplish a mission. A good example of lateral thinking in this field would be the forecaster cannot tell a pilot how to adjust the mission, merely “strongly encourage” the pilot to adjust times or flight routes. Finally, time management skills are a must as in the case of Medical Evacuations or Search and Recovery, operations the author has personally supported, seconds truly matter and accuracy cannot be compromised.
While a Weather Forecaster cannot and will not be able to do everything, a great many skills are quite useful. It almost goes without saying that forecasting the weather has a strong role in National Defense as well as an extensive history. In addition to this, a strong foundation in meteorology has been built which only serves to benefit the meteorological community and the public itself as a whole.
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©2017 Weather Forecaster Kevin Owens