Special Operations Weathermen are Air Force meteorologists with unique training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather, assess, and interpret weather and environmental intelligence from forward deployed locations, working primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces. They collect weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain intelligence, assist mission planning, generate accurate mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations and train joint force membrs and coalition partners to take and communicate limited weather observations. Additionally, Special Operations Weathermen conduct special reconnaissance, collect upper air data, organize, establish and maintain weather data reporting networks, determine host nation meteorological capabilities and train foreign national forces. Every Special Operations Forces mission is planned using the intelligence and coordination of special operations weathermen.
The U.S. Army Weather Service originated in 1917 to provide the American Expeditionary Forces with “all the meteorological information needed; and to undertake special investigations in military meteorology and related problems”. They first took part in World War I combat operations in France in 1918.
During World War II, specially trained weather observers, sometimes referred to as guerrilla weathermen, infiltrated behind enemy lines to provide weather intelligence in support of air strikes, airlifts and airdrops. In 1947 the Weather Service transferred to the new Air Force with the provision to continue providing meteorological services to the Army. During the Vietnam War, special warfare or commando weathermen provided forward observations and established weather networks in Cambodia and Laos. In every conflict since Vietnam, special operations weathermen were with initial entry forces leading the way, undertaking the most dangerous missions behind enemy lines, conducting austere weather operations, and taking observations critical to the success of follow-on forces.
On May 5, 2008, the Air Force approved the establishment of a new Air Force Specialty Code for Special Operations Weather, formally recognizing their commitment to deploy into restricted environments by air, land or sea to conduct weather operations, observe and analyze all weather data and environmental intelligence..
Highly trained Air Commandos
Special operations weathermen are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military. They maintain the same weather weapon system qualifications as all Air Force weathermen in addition to advanced special tactics skills. Their 61 weeks of training and unique mission skills earn them the right to wear the gray beret.
- Special Operations Weather Selection Course, Lackland Air Force Base,
Texas – This two-week course focuses on sports physiology, nutrition, basic exercises, special operations weather history and fundamentals.
- Special Operations Weather Initial Skills Course, Keesler AFB, Miss. – This 30-week course prepares Air Force special operations weather apprentices. Training includes basic, intermediate, and advanced meteorology, meteorological reports and computer operations. Other topics include: satellite meteorology, weather chart analysis, weather radar, weather products, tropical meteorology, synoptic level analytical meteorology, weather prognosis techniques, forecasting weather elements to include severe weather, synoptic lab, forecasting lab, and a unit on the weather career field and weather equipment. This is the same course, with the inclusion of rigorous fitness progression training, that all Air Force weather apprentices attend and is the core skill of special operations weathermen.
- U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga. – Trainees learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop in a three-week course.
- U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School, Fairchild AFB, Wash. – This two and a half-week course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas. Instruction includes principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.
- U.S. Air Force Water Survival Training, Fairchild AFB, Wash. – This two-day course teaches employing principles, procedures, techniques, and equipment that enhance their ability to survive in a water environment and assist in their safe recovery and return to friendly control.
- U.S. Air Force Underwater Egress Training, Fairchild AFB, Wash. – This one-day course teaches the principles, procedures, and techniques necessary to successfully egress from a sinking aircraft. Training requires personnel to actually experience water entry and to perform underwater egress.
- Special Operations Weather Apprentice Course, Pope AFB, N.C. – This 13-week course provides final special operations weather qualifications. Training includes physical training, austere weather operations, tactical weather observations, small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, demolitions, and field operations including parachuting. At the completion of this course, each graduate is awarded their 3-skill level (journeymen), gray beret and SOWT crest.
- Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training, Hurlburt Field, Fla. – This 12-to-15-month program for newly assigned special operations weathermen produces mission-ready operators for the Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command. Three phases — initial skills, core tasks, and operational readiness training –test the trainee’s personal limits through demanding mental and physical training.