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.
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
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
"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
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
"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,"
"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
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
"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."