Military News

Monday, August 31, 2015

Airmen weather through Marine tactics course

by Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.
Moody Air Force Base, Ga.


8/28/2015 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- -- Aircraft ranging from bombers to fighters to helicopters all have one similarity between them that can be either friend or foe.

Mother Nature.

But one specialized group of Airmen is able to tell whether service members are dealing with friendly forces or one of its most deadliest foes. Amongst these Airmen, two have made history in their career field by being the first combat-weather Airmen to graduate from a marine specialized course.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Leo and Tech. Sgt. Nathan Morton, 18th Weather Squadron, were the first Air Force weathermen to graduate from the U.S. Marines Meteorological and Oceanographic (METOC) Weapons and Tactics Instructors course.

"I have to admit it was probably the most fun I ever had at a training event," said Leo, 18th Weather Squadron weapons and tactics chief. "They welcomed us with open arms and then tried to learn as much from us as we could learn from them, because this is a training environment for them too; trying to learn what we had done, the way we do things because they are vastly different."

The two Airmen learned a multitude of information about Marine Corps operations from beginning to end.

"The ultimate goal is to develop a well-rounded professional who is knowledgeable and comfortable with the planning, integration, and execution necessary to successfully conduct Marine Expeditionary Force-level combat operations," said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. John Bathon, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One METOC division head. "The objective of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor syllabus for METOC Prospective Weapons and Tactics Instructors (WTIs) is to introduce not only the six functions of Marine Aviation in support of Marine Air Ground Task Force operations, but also how the MAGTF concept integrates within joint/combined operations to support our national objectives."

Leo said the course made him knowledgeable on a variety of subjects opposed to just weather.

"We learned about HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system), patriot batteries, and the way in which a fighter execution zone or missile execution zone is formed," Leo said. "So it's pretty much a broad overview of the entire battlefield rather than just specifically weather, which allows you to then integrate weather more appropriately into the planning process."

Along with learning how other pieces of a battlefield puzzle can fit together in planning and executing a mission, they were also able to come together with their sister service for the first time in their careers.

"It's very rare that the Air Force weather community and the Marine weather community get to work together at all," Leo explained. "So it was a unique opportunity to see weather from their point of view. They work the lower areas where the land meets the sea and the Air Force, we are typically concerned with over land, so it was a little bit different for us."

Bathon said that while the training did not differ from having the Airmen, there was still a new spectrum each service was able to see and value from.

"The training was not different, but it absolutely added a new perspective to the training," Bathon continued. "Having Air Force students really assisted with understanding how METOC not only supports the MAGTF, but how it supports joint operations, as well. Understanding how Air Force METOC is manned, trained, and equipped will assist Marine METOC planners when operating in a joint operation.

Both Air Force students gained an understanding of how Marines plan and execute missions as an integrated air-ground task force and were more conscious of what Marine METOC can bring to joint METOC operations," Bathon said.

"I think one of the main things [I gained from the class] is opening up that discussion between Marine weather, Navy weather, and Air Force weather, so that we can learn off of one another," Leo said. "That's what we really get out of this and what is going to further the weather career field as a whole. Learning from each other than, again, having to reinvent the wheel each and every time we come up against a problem, because our problems are very similar. Talking with Marines and being through those classes, we have very similar problems and as far as the career field goes and we can get a lot off of learning from one another."

Bathon agrees that there was a great camaraderie amongst the students which helped them develop into teams.

"METOC students specifically worked together as a team to create a 'one operation, one forecast' mind-set and voice for the team," Bathon said. "This increased their opportunity for success by relying on the strengths and weaknesses of each PWTI to develop a timely and accurate forecast that could be used by decision-makers to make go/no-go decisions and ensure safe flight."

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Ferland, 18th Weather Squadron agrees that developing lines of communication between the services was an important skill for the airmen to learn due to their mission. The 18th WS provides weather support to the U.S. Army 18th Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, N.C.

"This course allows us to better integrate with the Army," Ferland. "The scenario I always tell our folks is this...just telling the Army it is going to rain is not enough. You need to be able to tell them how and why that rain will impact their mission and provide alternatives to help them make decisions."

After the course, Leo said that he could think of several instances in his past where the information he learned could have proved useful.

"The use of weaponry and the effective weather, the different types of weather, I think I really could of used that downrange," Leo said. "I got back from Afghanistan in late November and a lot of the stuff, seeing it, kind of made me realize that we could provide our customer with more. I think this course kind of helped narrow it down to what was most important and some ways in which we can provide more accurate weather support for our guys."

Though weather may not always present the most optimal conditions for to complete a mission it's up to the weather Airmen to find the best opportunity for success.

"Anyone can go do a mission in clear-blue, perfect, sunny weather," Leo said. "We make our money by being able to pin point the weather and let them know accurately when, where, and how it's going to happen, so we can capitalize on the battlefield."

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